The Royal Room (in Seattle)

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royalroomIt’s late January in the Seattle suburbs and I’m sitting here with sunshine streaming in through the OPEN WINDOWS in my home office.  Wuhh??  Yep, it’s a whopping and unheard of 63 degrees F right now (just over 17C)…normally we’d be in a grey and windy rainy mess right now.  We’ll take the sunshine any day!  And warmth!  And any opportunity to get windows open here in the townhouse for some fresh air…ahhh, love it.

Meanwhile I am over the moon about a fantastic live music place I’ve been enjoying immensely over the last few months – The Royal Room, in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, just a bit south of downtown Seattle.  A 15 minute light rail ride from downtown (and a quick 2-block walk) brings you here…to one of THE most diverse zip codes in the country, so they say. That zip code is 98118 if anyone wants to look it up.   Columbia City brings a wonderfully eclectic mix of restaurants, shops and bars.  No chains here save for one Starbucks.  That’s by design, I’m sure.

The Royal Room opened in December 2011 and is a lot different from most live music clubs around here.  First of all, there’s typically no cover charge.  Sure, there’s a two drink minimum, but the musicians are paid based on your donations of your choosing.  The stage and sound system are state of the art, yet there’s a fantastic old school vibe about it right when you step inside.

And when you step inside its warm and intimate setting, be ready for anything in the live music realm.  It could be a high school jazz band with their first big gig out in public.  Or Swedish techno pop with synthesizers.  Or a jazz trio (piano/bass/drums).  Funk (Earth, Wind and Fire anyone??).  Last night it was gypsy jazz in celebration of what would have been Jean “Django Reinhardt’s 105th birthday.  Never had heard of him to be honest, but by the time the night was over I was hooked.  I truly felt transformed back to the 1930s, what was Django’s heyday.  The musicians were dressed in character…and how awesome to see a lot of people dressed for dancing (nice dresses, suits, hats, dancing shoes)…doing everything from waltz to jitterbug.  I’m ready to sign up for lessons!

Spicy Fennel with Olives & Orange – Slow Cooker Style!

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fennelHappy 2015, everyone!  Here’s a wonderful slow cooker dish I recently discovered in my Williams-Sonoma New Slow Cooker Cookbook (by Brigit Binns).  Do you think of veggies in a slow cooker as mushy, dull and flavorless?  Well, as I’m learning, that’s simply not true.  This cookbook is full of contemporary slow cooker dishes with crunchy side dishes like corn salsas or wonderful salads with easy vinaigrettes.

If you’ve never cooked with fennel, I promise it’s actually quite easy.  Don’t get weirded out by its funny shapes in the picture above.  Once you slice off the green tops you have something similar to a small onion in size to work with – and like an onion it’s got lots of fantastic layers…but unlike an onion, fennel’s flavor has a subtle hint of black licorice.  So nope, no eyes tearing up like you might sometimes experience chopping an onion.

This dish is perfect as a vegetarian or vegan main course (just substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock called for) or as a side dish.

Serves 4

  • 2 fennel bulbs, about 1 lb (500 g) total weight
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 T dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 C (80 ml) chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (1/2 tsp salt to start)
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 C (75g) pitted kalamata olives, halved

Cut off the green stems and feathery tops and any bruised outer stalks from each fennel bulb.  Chop the feather tops to yield 2 T and set aside.  Quarter each bulb lengthwise, then halve each quarter lengthwise and trim away the core, leaving just a little of the core intact to hold each wedge together.  You should have 16 wedges.  Place the fennel in a slow cooker.

In a small, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Add the shallot and sauté until lightly golden, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and pepper flakes to taste and cook for 1 minute more.  Pour in the wine and vinegar and stir to dislodge any browned bits on the pan bottom.  Stir in the stock, oregano sprigs (or dried oregano), 1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper.  Transfer the contents of the pan to the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on the low setting for 2 1/2 hours.  The fennel should be tender but not mushy.

Just before the fennel is ready, grate the zest from the orange and set aside.  Then, trim away the remaining rind and segment the orange.  Coarsely chop the orange segments.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fennel wedges to a warm platter.  Taste the braising liquid and adjust the seasoning with salt pepper and a little more vinegar, if needed.  Spoon some of the liquid over the fennel wedges and scatter the fennel tops, olives, grated orange zest and orange segments over the top.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Fivenineteen notes:  the flavors in this dish are incredible.  The orange adds a sweet, sunny note, while the red pepper flakes bring a little spicy heat.  The black olives are earthy and salty, and the anise-flavored fennel tops add freshness.  Delicious!

I used a 3 quart slow cooker with a ceramic insert, and I could have probably let the fennel go a full 3 hours, rather than the 2 1/2 hours the recipe calls for.  You’ll want your fennel tender, not mushy, so keep an eye near the end to see what works for you.  I try to avoid opening the slow cooker lid as much as possible as it interferes with the cooking process; the slow cooker will take a while to readjust to the right temperature after the lid is opened and that hot, moist air escapes.  But sometimes you need to open it and check your food’s progress.

If you’re using fresh oregano springs, strip off the leaves from the stem and tear gently.  No need to mince them before adding.

It didn’t seem like there was enough braising liquid when I was sautéing the shallots, garlic and adding in the vinegar and wine.  But it turned out great, and I’ll definitely make this recipe again.

Buon appetito!

Light

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Can’t think of a simpler yet more profound title to this last blog post of 2014.  WOW what a year it’s been!  Transforming is the best way to describe it.  Everything except where I live and the car I drive has pretty much changed in my life…and all for the better.  New job.  New, improved body (at last count I’m down nearly 54 lbs – 24 kg – since July 2013).  A healthier outlook on life both how I take care of myself mentally and how I fuel my body with nutritious food.  Incredible new relationships…lots of friendships and a wonderful romantic one too.  I simply couldn’t be happier right now and am ready to embrace 2015 full on!

So how fitting is it to wrap up the year with a post about LIGHT.  What we crave this time of year so hungrily…yeah, we’re past the Winter Solstice and it’s been gloriously sunny (and cold!) the last few days.  Slowly we’re pulling away from that dreaded “get up and go to work in the dark / go home in the dark” rhythm that can drive us crazy.

I recently got intrigued with light therapy.  I’m not officially SAD diagnosed, but I do notice the blahs and blues sometimes when the weather is crappy and it’s rainy and dark like it is so often in the Seattle area this time of year. It’s like living in a soggy black and white TV!  So when it’s nice out and not raining torrentially it’s time to bundle up and get out there (where are my rubber boots??).  No excuses.

And I’m getting up for work about an hour and a half earlier than I used to.  Keep in mind, getting up later was a well-ingrained habit of nearly a dozen years.  So snapping into a 5:45am wake up time – a time probably more normal than not for many of us out there – has been a challenge for me to get used to.  Combine that with shorter, darker days and it’s been, well, challenging.  And for those of you who follow along in here, you know I’m not a morning person by nature.  I’m just not wired that way.  Shhh don’t tell my new co-workers.  Faking it (and a little extra coffee in the a.m.) works wonders.

So, I recently picked up a couple of light therapy devices thanks to the nice people at Amazon.com.  Take a look!

Philips blueThis is a blue light sunshine simulator from Philips (check out the link in the paragraph above).  This beauty mimics the sunshine we crave on those bright, sunny, cloudless days.  What I like about it is you can adjust how long the light sessions last as well as how bright the light is.  You don’t (and shouldn’t) look directly into it.  Rather, I just keep it at an angle (like the pic; there’s a kickstand included) and about 18 – 20″ away from me on my bathroom countertop while I dry my hair, get dressed and put on my makeup.  My session runs 45 minutes and it shuts itself off automatically (but you can set it to run between 1 and 60 minutes as you need).  It also comes with a protective cover, and it’s small enough for travel.

Philips alarmNext up is the Philips wake up alarm with sunrise simulation.  It kind of looks like a headlight yanked out of a car, but it has a nice flat surface so it won’t roll around.  I ditched my c. 2003 clock radio/CD player and started using this instead.  It’s fantastic!  The light simulates an actual sunrise, starting a deep, rich orange and slowly shifting to yellows and whites.  And you can add a soothing wake up sound too (or just wake up to the sunrise).  It’s fully customizable which is wonderful.  You can choose how long the sunrise takes and how loud the music plays (or find the FM radio station you love).  Learning the controls is a little tricky at first, but once you do it a few times it’s pretty straight forward.  Want to snooze?  Just tap anywhere on the light surface and 9 more minutes is yours.

I also like how a lot of the menu buttons don’t light up until you get your fingers near them.  Anyone else out there get annoyed with those glaring numbers and letters when you’re trying to sleep?  And amazingly, the orange clock readout in the pic above is proven to be the least glaring in the dark…and the intensity will adjust depending on how much natural light is around it.  So when you’re trying to sleep, the clock readout is a nice, soft peachy glow.

Sweet dreams…glorious mornings…and Happy New Year, everyone!

Salt & Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas!

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Anyone else out there have a snack that puts you over the edge in a food high…like once you start you can’t stop?  Oh yeah, for me it’s salt and vinegar potato chips.  I can’t remember my “first” (hmmm, but they say you always do), but I do remember that feeling of OH SHIT THESE ARE GREAT…and my mouth feeling all raw and curled up inside after ingesting too much salty and vinegar-y goodness.  So worth it, although I probably chugged a ton of water later.

I still have a weakness for potato chips, but given my shift in nutrition habits over the past year and a half or so, I try to keep it in moderation.  But boy it’s hard sometimes!  I find it’s best to simply not have a bag of chips on the kitchen counter lying around.  It’s too tempting to pop a few, and before you know it the bag is empty in a couple of days.  And those days are far in the rear view mirror here.  If I do indulge in chips it’s a small bag on rare occasions, maybe an afternoon snack to go along with my apple, or enjoying some (not the whole bag!) as part of a box catered lunch for a work event.

Now I’ve stumbled upon a fantastic substitute for these potato chips…using roasted chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans).  WOW!  And this recipe is SO easy.

Serves 3 (or maybe just 1 or 2, hee hee)

  • 1 15 oz (425g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 C (625 ml) white vinegar
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) fine grain sea salt or coarse sea salt plus more if needed

Place the chickpeas and vinegar in a medium saucepan.  Add a dash of sea salt.  Bring the vinegar to a boil and cook for about 30 seconds, and then remove the pan from the heat.  Some of the chickpea skins will fall off but not to worry.  Cover the pan and let the chickpeas soak in the vinegar for 25 to 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Drain the chickpeas in a colander, discarding the vinegar.  Shake off any excess vinegar – no need to dry the chickpeas.

Transfer the chickpeas to the baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil.  Massage the oil gently into the chickpeas with your fingers until fully coated.  Sprinkle with the salt.

Roast the chickpeas for 20 minutes, and then give the pan a gentle shake to roll the chickpeas around on the pan.  Roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden and lightly charred.

Cool the chickpeas on the pan for 5 minutes.  They will firm up as they cool.

Notes:  Turn on your range fan and open a window when boiling the chickpeas in the vinegar, as the vinegar smell is very strong  (Really, trust me on this).  Now, if for some reason you have leftovers after making this snack, cool them completely and then store them in a container in the freezer for 5-7 days.  To reheat, simply toss the frozen chickpeas on a baking sheet and roast them at 400 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until heated through.  This restores the chickpeas to their former crunchy goodness.  YES!

This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free and grain-free.

From the Oh She Glows cookbook, by Angela Liddon.

Buon appetito!

Oh yeah…Toasted Super Seed Power Bread!

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Hoo doggy this is some GOOD BREAD, everyone.  Wholesome awesomeness and gluten-free too!  Yep, I’ve discovered yet another wonderful vegan cookbook – Yum Universe, by Heather Crosby.  As many of you know, I am not vegan (nor am I gluten-free necessarily) but I do love experimenting and there’s no doubt those two eating styles make me feel super energetic.

I love to grocery shop, and when I see a recipe with a few ingredients I’ve never cooked with before, I grin big.  THIS is going to be an adventure.

  • 1/2 C sesame seeds
  • 1 C rolled oats
  • 1/2 C pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 C almonds
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 C chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 1/2 C poppy seeds
  • 1/4 C chia seeds
  • 3 T psyllium husk powder (use 1/4 C if you can only find the husks)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 T Sucanat (dried sugar cane juice)
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2 C water

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the sesame seeds, oats, pumpkin seeds, almonds and sunflower seeds on the sheet and toast them in the oven for 7-10 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well (feel free to use your hands).  Form the dough into a ball and cover with a towel.  Let sit overnight, about 10-12 hours.

The next day, preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a loaf baking dish with parchment paper.  Allow 1/2″ of paper to exceed the top edges of the loaf pan so you can easily lift it out once baked.

The dough will be very firm.  Using your hands and a little effort, shape into a rectangle and press the dough into the parchment-lined loaf pan, making sure it reaches all four corners.

Bake for 30 minutes and remove from the oven.  Lift loaf out of the pan by the parchment paper and set onto a baking sheet.  Flip your loaf, making sure parchment paper is flat underneath, and bake another 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Slice and experience heaven. Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge.

fivenineteen notes: oh man, that won’t be the last time I make this bread!  Puts all others to shame!  I hit my local food co-op and loaded up on seeds!  Actually, “loaded up” is probably not the right term here.  They sell most of their seeds in the bulk foods section, so it was a snap to purchase only what I needed.

Given my 40-something eyes I didn’t notice a lot of the recipe notes when I read through it.  So if you didn’t notice to add 1/4 C psyllium husks if you can’t find them in flour form like me, your dough might be a little watery after adding the water.  But not to worry; in a few hours the dough absorbed all of the water and it was easy to scoop into my parchment-lined loaf pan and pop into the oven.

Your coconut oil will be in solid form at room temperature (unless you live in a hot climate).  Scoop a couple of tablespoons into a small glass bowl and microwave a few seconds to melt it before adding to the dough.

It’s easy to cut your parchment paper to size with kitchen shears.  Cut two strips – one to fit the pan horizontally and one to fit vertically.  Be sure to leave at least a 1/2″ extra so you can lift the baked loaf easily out of the pan.  Hooray for parchment paper!

Top your slice of bread with salad, your favorite spread and a pinch of salt or try it toasted.

Buon appetito!

Urban Style (ahem, in progress…)

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Well dang, it’s my FAVORITE time of the year.  Right now.  The end of Daylight Savings Time.  That blissful extra hour…what a gift.  OK, yeah, I know, I know, it’ll get darker sooner now as the weeks roll by, but you know what?  I don’t care.  It’s all a cycle shifting back and forth.  For now, I’ll savor this extra hour.  What are YOU going to do with YOURS?

I started a new job back in late September and I would say this is one of the biggest job changes I’ve made yet in my (gasp) 25 years in the workforce.  A new industry for me, a major shift away from contracting/consulting to full-time permanent employment…and a new commute.  Yep, I’m working in downtown Seattle proper again.  Haven’t done that since 1997 and I didn’t realize how much I missed it to be honest.  Sure, I’m getting up about an hour and a half earlier than I used to to catch a bus, but I wake up now with a (tired) smile on my face.  I’m working downtown again, everyone!!

And that means a big shift in my wardrobe too.  Not necessarily due to the downtown change, but mostly because of the company I work for now.  There is a little more of an old school, formal dress code.  As in jeans only on Fridays…and they better be nice ones.  So my intentionally ripped “destroyed” denim sits idle in my closet now.  And the “nice” denim I have is slowly becoming too big and baggy from this past year’s weight loss. 

So here’s a nice problem to have…new body, new job, new commute…and new style, however it will evolve!  It’s been a little hard on the wallet I must say…but SO much fun.

Let’s start with dresses….yes, DRESSES.  Hell, I haven’t worn a dress in years, and certainly not to work in eons.

Vince dressHere’s a fabulous surprise find…a dress by Vince!  Ahhh, Vince can do no wrong in my book…wonderful, snuggly cashmere sweaters I’ve enjoyed for years.  I found this dress at Nordstrom a few weeks ago and fell in love with it (although I was prepared not to like it).  The space-dyed knit front is lined so it’s not see-through, and the rest of the dress is a dark charcoal grey with a fun shirt tail hem on the sides.  It has a back zipper, side pockets and really nice piping detail on the sleeves.  And super comfortable…bonus!  I love this with black tights and boots.  Gotta love getting dressed in 10 seconds, especially when you’re getting up earlier in the morning!

Ted Baker dressAnd dress #2…this one is by Ted Baker, a designer I had not heard of before!  He’s done menswear for some time and now has branched into women’s clothing – very nice.  My Mom spotted this dress on a recent shopping trip and boy did she nail it!  This dress is both gorgeous and comfortable.  The fabric is embossed with a very subtle reptile print.  Classy with an edge.  And there is a bold, exposed zipper in the back, so once again you’re dressed in seconds.  I love the fit and flare swing of the skirt – makes me feel so feminine and pretty when I wear it!  I love it with black tights and boots for the fall weather.

Theory skirtI just recently purchased this skirt too – I found it on that shopping trip with my Mom and later had to go online and scoop it up – this is by Theory (one of my favorite clothing brands).  It’s a beautiful poly/wool blend, and I love the knife pleating…so classic and kinda retro, don’t you think?  I will wear this three seasons of the year for sure.  Once again with black tights…and for shoes I tried some black patent leather high-heeled penny loafers.  Fun!

SM BootsAnd speaking of shoes, I’ve made a few shifts there too.  I literally live in denim and high heels.  Now that jeans are limited to Fridays and weekends for me, and that I’m walking a few blocks downtown to and from the bus stop and my building, high heels aren’t the fastest way to get around.  Wow, for so many years I walked a few steps from a parking lot to where I worked, so heels weren’t a problem.  Or even really out there platforms.  Well, usually not…but check out that post from last year for a good laugh.  These boots are by Steve Madden.  I bought them last year and they pretty much sat unworn in my closet.  I’m so glad I hung onto them.  I probably wear them 2-3 times a week now.  The cut is nice and wide, so my nearly C-width feet and toes aren’t pinched, and the low heel is perfect for getting around comfortably.  Don’t like the moto-inspired details?  If you’re wearing pants or jeans it really doesn’t show too much.  My new workplace is a lot more conservative, but these are absolutely fine and not too casual.

Theory pantsAnd help…I need pants, big time!  My eye zooms in on jeans whenever I shop or browse catalogues, but I’ve gotta invest in work-appropriate attire now.  No jeans except Fridays combined with a 50 lb weight loss means starting from scratch pretty much!

Theory saves the day with these wonderful wool and poly blend slacks.  They’re lightweight enough to wear year ’round and go with literally anything.  A nice change from my typical black pants choice.  These weren’t cheap by a longshot, but I justify that with them being a classic style I can wear all the time.  Sold.

Sorel bootsAnd, it’s Seattle so we’re all about not so great weather.  I really notice this now that I’m spending more time outside waiting for a bus or walking to my building or enjoying a walk on my lunch break.  We don’t let the weather get in our way around here!  And I wanted some practical but not too granola-looking rubber boots for rainy days and puddles.  Nice enough to not have to bring another pair of shoes to the office to change into.  And I think I found exactly what I was looking for with these Sorel boots.  I LOVE the pop of orange on the heel, don’t you?  These are cut wide enough for my feet and so comfy I wore them all day at work last Friday.  Truly unexpectedly comfortable!  Nice job, Sorel.

Asics sneakersI also noticed my running/walking shoes getting a little worn on the inside, so it was time to get another pair to alternate with.  Now that I’m into my second year of improved fitness and nutrition habits, I was looking for shoes I can wear for runs and walks when it gets darker a little earlier this time of the year.  Asics are a perfect cut for my wide feet which are blessed with high arches and major supination.  That means your feet roll outward rather than inward as you walk, by the way. Apparently I supinate pretty severely according to the nice people at the running store near my house.  Go big or go home, right?  That’s also why I love these shoes.  They have reflective gel for nighttime walks and the bright yellow is anything but subtle.  No need to hide!

I also picked up a new black umbrella which has some reflective tape around the outside edges.  You might think it’s funny that I live in Seattle and didn’t have a decent umbrella prior to now, but ’tis the truth and not super unusual actually.  Around here our rains aren’t typically the torrential kind of downpours you might have in other parts of the country.  Rather, our light rain or spitty drizzle is pretty easy to dodge or tolerate when making a dash from your car to your house or the store, say.  Now that I have more outside walking as part of my new routine an umbrella is essential.  I found one that folds up nice and small and is easy to throw into my purse.  At the drugstore of all places.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

I see a lot of crossbody and messenger-style bags downtown, on both men and women.  I can see how freeing it is to be, well, hands-free!  So I thought I’d branch out from my typical crook of the arm purses and find something crossbody myself.

MKors crossbodyThis is a pony-hair camo-style crossbody bag by MICHAEL Michael Kors.  And the picture doesn’t do it justice I must say.  It’s about 9″ by 7″ with a 24″ strap drop. And wow, it’s gorgeous!  This is a fun change from my usual black, dark brown and grey bag collection.  The camo is a fun twist without being over the top trendy.  And it’s so nice being a smaller size to where this style of bag fits comfortably across my body.

I’ve also rediscovered the joy of a nice trench coat.  Mine is a classic black knee-length by Nine West, and it’s old enough to where I couldn’t even find it online.  I guess Nine West is no longer in the apparel business?  Wow, I’ve got a collector’s item.  Maybe someday I will invest in an iconic Burberry trench, but for now this one is perfect.  It could be 15 years old, who knows.  But the style is timeless and it still looks great, not worn out.  It sat for years unworn in my closet actually after I gained weight.

I’m so glad I hung onto it.

“Eat Your Greens” Detox Soup!

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GlowsMom was right, people…gotta eat those VEGGIES!  Fueling our bodies with good, nutritious food is THE foundation of us being our best selves for each other out in the world. Our happiest and healthiest. Awhile back I spotted a sign in a store window that said “The food you eat can either be the best form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”  WOW.  Did that ever make an impression on me!

Ever since completing the Lean Eating for Women program last July I’ve put this into practice more and more.  And for the record, I don’t feel like I “completed” anything.  Rather, that year of habit-based coaching was the end of the beginning!  The launch of fivenineteen 2.0!  Who is now nearly 50 lbs lighter (22.5 kg) and about 43″ leaner with body measurements!  Holy crap, right? And since then, now doing these things “on my own” so to speak (which I’m not, really, as the Lean Eating online community is superb), I feel equipped with fantastic, sustainable nutrition and exercise habits I can continue for the rest of my life.

While I am not vegan, I’m really enjoying the Oh She Glows cookbook by Angela Liddon.  Delicious, creative vegan recipes…even for those like me who love a good steak or burger now and then!  It’s true…eating your veggies DOES make you glow from the inside out.  I’m told I look younger now than before I started taking better care of myself, and I have fewer wrinkles too apparently.  Bonus.

So, here’s a fantastic soup recipe.  Enjoy the ritual of chopping veggies…for me there is something very rustic and soothing about it.  [No, I don’t have a food processor, but am in the market for one.] Once you’re done with the prep work this soup comes together very quickly and will make the house smell heavenly.  This was a perfect choice, as I had a large, sweet onion and some mushrooms in the fridge that were a little long in the tooth and needed to be used.  When your veggies are ‘tired’ and about ready to be tossed, try them in a stir-fry or a soup like this one so they don’t go to waste.

Eat Your Greens Detox Soup – Serves 3

  • 1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 C (750 ml) sliced cremini or white button mushrooms (about 8 oz)
  • 1 C (250 ml) chopped carrots
  • 2 C (500 ml) chopped broccoli florets
  • Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 3 tsp (7 to 15 ml) grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp (0.5 ml) ground cinnamon
  • 5 C (1.25 L) vegetable broth
  • 2 large nori seaweed sheets, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) strips (optional)
  • 2 C (500 ml) torn kale leaves
  • Fresh lemon juice, for serving (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the mushrooms, carrots and broccoli and stir to combine.  Season generously with salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes more.

Stir in the ginger, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and sauté for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the broth and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 20 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the nori (if using) and kale and cook until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if desired.

Fivenineteen notes:  I purchased one of those cardboard box thingy’s of vegetable stock that contains 4 cups broth, not the 5 called for in this recipe.  Honestly, you can get away with just 4 cups, plus the soup will be even thicker and heartier, which I prefer, honestly.  I like this served with a small blob of pesto too.

Buon appetito!

Fivenineteen is Five!

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Life has whoooooshed by so rapidly these past few weeks I forgot to acknowledge that fivenineteen turned 5 last month.  FIVE!!  Holy smokes…launching this blog back in September 2009 seems like a lifetime ago.  So much has changed…for the better.  I’m back to work (goddamn that 2009-2010 era sucked), I’m in the best shape of my life at age 47, and just so much more happy and confident.  Content.  Calm.  Balanced.  YES.

But it hasn’t come without conscious effort to make changes for the better.  And I’ve had a lot of great help, support and coaching along the way.  Nobody does it alone…that is one of the themes that drives me and how I choose to live my life.  And it feels good to know your Truth.

There have been struggles for sure.  Most recently, getting abruptly cut from my contracting job last May put me in a tailspin.  Thankfully not a severe one, for our job market is a lot stronger than it was 5 years ago, and I’d already built up a lot of great habits thanks to the Lean Eating for Women coaching I’d been working through the past 10 months or so.  I could have easily said fuck it and sabotaged myself, wallowing in my sudden state of unemployment and drowning myself in too much food and plopping my sorry butt on the couch.  But nope, the discipline was there to keep on going.  “Keep on going…” the wise words of encouragement I hear so often from my Dad.  I love it.

In a warped way, I could say that Manager who cut me from my job (for reasons I’ll never know) did me a favor. I hate to give out credit to someone I have zero respect for or reason to emulate but I think it’s partially true.  It lit a fire in me.  It made me realize I’d come to the end of an era and it was time to take a leap and jump into something different career-wise.  Meaning, searching for a place to hang my hat…and get off the eight-year contractor merry-go-round.

So while I was happy to land a new position mere weeks after losing my previous job, I knew they weren’t my Tribe for the long haul.  GREAT team though.  Really wonderful, hard-working people.  But the networking wheels were in motion, and another great opportunity was already whirling around.

And it surfaced.  And it happened.  And I couldn’t be happier.  Last week I started a brand new full-time, permanent job in a field I’ve always wanted to work in.  And I’m doing the kind of work I’ve grown to love over nearly 14 (!) years…and I’m back to working in downtown Seattle again.  I’ve found a wonderful new team to collaborate with.  You can feel the warmth the minute you step off the elevator.  I’m not kidding.  I’m no energy expert, but I’m very sensitive to the vibes an office space or home gives off when I step inside.  Maybe I’ll blog more about that later.

What a shift!  I haven’t worked in Seattle proper in (gulp) 17 years.  And while things are still new and gelling, I’m really enjoying my new commute.  I’m lucky to be mere minutes away from a park & ride lot which has quite a few buses heading into Seattle throughout the morning.  Now, sure, in time this will get to be a routine and maybe even a grind when the weather turns crappy and it gets darker earlier, but for now I’m savoring it.  Some people asked me if I was going to commute in by car and I said absolutely NO WAY.  I’m not going to slowly chip away at the physical and mental improvements I’ve made over the past year by killing myself with a grueling drive in traffic, a toll bridge and expensive downtown parking.  Nope, rather I can meditate on the bus, take a nap or play with my phone.  Ahhh.

Now it’s time to head out to the lake and enjoy the gloriously sunny early Fall weather.

Cooking Classes…Basque Style!

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Flag_of_the_Basque_Country_svgWow.  Just WOW.  I recently discovered an absolute jewel of a French store with cooking classes in the wonderfully eclectic Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill, just east of downtown.

It’s Paris Eastside.  What a treasure this place is!  Everything inside is from France or is authentic to the French lifestyle.  The owner, Muriel, is a delightfully charming French woman who will welcome you like family when you arrive. After years teaching French cooking to English speaking tourists in Paris, she moved to Bellevue, Washington where she lives with her family…and has recreated the cooking school experience she taught in France now in Seattle!

Yesterday’s class was authentic Basque cooking.  The Basque region consists of two autonomous communities – one in northern Spain and the other in southern France just adjacent to it.  If you haven’t heard of this region or its unique peoples, language and culture I highly recommend taking a closer look.  [And never, ever call a Basque person Spanish as an aside!]  Yikes.  Although you will certainly notice both Spanish and French influences in the food and lifestyle.

Not only was the class ambience amazing with wonderful people (we were a small, intimate group of just 7 of us cooking with Muriel), but we also had a gloriously sunny, late summer day outside without a cloud in the sky, along with those long shadows and a slightly crispy feeling in the air letting you know Fall is mere days away.  So the shop doors stayed open as we cooked, letting the sunshine and fresh air pour in.  That plus the busy sounds of the city (cars, people talking and passing) and it was just magical.  Being in an intimate oasis mere steps from the hustle and bustle outside.

WP_000606We made 3 recipes – Piperade basque, a pepper dish which is like a very elegant egg scramble (although light on the proportion of eggs as you can see), served on a sliced baguette and topped with a little prosciutto.  Doesn’t that look wonderful?  Mmmm hmmm.

We also made Axoa (that’s “uh CHO uh”), a meat dish with cubed veal, peppers and ground Espelette pepper.  Sure, you could substitute another type of ground chili pepper, but it won’t have the unique flavor that this one does.  Ground Espelette pepper is fairly mild with a distinctive, warm tomato-y aroma and taste.  Nice to enhance the flavors of the dish, without being overwhelming or too hot and spicy.

Now, veal is a little hard to come by and for many it’s a hot-button, shunned food for lots of reasons.  So, we made a separate batch with cubed chicken as well, and each person in the class got to choose whether they wanted to try theirs with the veal or with the chicken.  I chose both to compare.  I haven’t eaten veal since I was a kid so I had forgotten it has such a nice, rich flavor, but I went for it…after all, “when in Rome,” right?.  And I gotta say, the veal version far outshined the chicken!

We started making the dessert first (Gâteau Basque – Basque cake), given it was the most time-intensive to prepare and needed 45 minutes to fully cook.  Oh yeah, that’s one dense cake alright!  With a wonderful crème filling of eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla…oh yeah we’re not here to skimp on the best ingredients or on calories here, people!  This is a rich dessert, so just a small wedge is all you need with a side of cherry jam.

A shared bottle of wine and relaxed conversation wrapped up our cooking experience.  Definitely going back again for sure!  Afterwards we headed down to Olympic Sculpture Park on the Seattle waterfront.  The sunshine was endless and sparkled on the water…watching the ferry boats going back and forth to Bainbridge Island, and the enormous cruise ships on their way up to Alaska.  Mount Rainier out clear as a bell, and lots of interesting and fascinating outdoor sculptures in the park.  When you truly relax and open your mind and drink in all the pleasures and scenery around you, you feel ALIVE.  At peace.  Balanced. And in the present.  How wonderful to have this park just steps from downtown!

By the time dinner rolled around lighter fare was in order.  Grilled salmon and sliced, grilled white eggplant (a first for me to try!) was just perfect.  And why not cap off the night with a trip to the Royal Room in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood for some live jazz and a nightcap?

Works for me.