Friday, December 12, 2014

ImmuniTea with Ginger, Lemon & Turmeric

Yes, it’s a horrible pun, and no, I absolutely couldn't resist.

Today I decided to test a concoction that seemed really crazy and potentially disgusting! I had read an article on making tea with fresh ginger and lemon, and wanted to try it. In college, a friend tipped me off to the idea that hot water, lemon, and honey is better than tea for sore throats when you’re sick because it coats the throat. (I’m not sure how that helps, but I can attest that it does!) After that initial cup of hot honey lemon water (not hot ham water), it’s fine to drink all the tea in the world.

I've started to cook more with ginger lately, and decided to add it to a tea brew. So I cut about a half inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled it, and put it in a mug with half of a lemon’s juice. On a whim, I decided to add turmeric, which is also great for your immune system and just a dash of cayenne pepper to add an extra punch and ensure the turmeric wasn't too strong. 

To my surprise, I found the drink was pretty tasty. I hadn’t intended to blog about it, but one taste and I changed my mind.

What we drink says a lot about us. I post this recipe with the knowledge that some will think I’m a health quack, so don’t worry, I love ice cream and chocolate as much as you do (and probably more). I’ve also been on a journey of learning how to cook and making sure my husband and I eat healthy, balanced meals. We’re not vegetarian, vegan, or paleo, although I do eat recipes from those diets and enjoy them.

We consume more tea than any other drink, probably even more than water! I usually drink a cup of English or Irish breakfast tea to start out the day. I don’t make coffee at home, but love drinking it in coffee shops.

I’ve noticed that many people define their identity by what they drink. It could be coffee, tea, kombucha, bone broth, water, cold-pressed juice, or green veggie smoothies. How often do we drink something because we’re aware that the world is looking at us – or we think they’re looking at us, when really they could care less? We often drink a certain type of drink to associate with a particular kind of lifestyle. I’m not immune to this. I enjoy reading vegetarian/vegan yoga-loving blogs. I’m drawn to that type of lifestyle, and find inspiration for the (mainly) vegetarian lunches I’ve been eating.

Yet we need to make sure we’re not missing out on hot chocolate just because we want everyone to see us drinking ginger and lemon tea. How often do we stop to truly enjoy what we’re drinking?

Now that the air is cold and the days are busy, I’m going to make an extra effort to appreciate what I put into my body – not for the sake of a particular diet or lifestyle, but for the sake of pure enjoyment. And if ginger and lemon are your thing, here’s the recipe! (Or tell me I’m crazy and go drink hot chocolate.)

ImmuniTea with Ginger, Lemon & Turmeric


1 cup boiling water
½ inch cube of fresh ginger
Juice of ½ a lemon
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
Dash of cayenne pepper


1. Boil the water on the stove. While it’s boiling, peel the ginger and place it in a mug with the squeezed lemon juice.

2. Pour the water into the mug, and add your spices.

3. Sit and read a book or watch rain/snow falling with your immunitea.

This recipe serves one. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Eve Journal

Just like a little kid, my life revolved around the promise of snow today. Homebound, but fueled by English Breakfast Tea and Espresso Hot Chocolate, I documented the small details of the weather, as the disappointing rain transitioned into lovely snow. Here’s my photo journal of what happened today. I hope you enjoy it!

I woke up this morning to dreary rain. I had an interview to conduct in a few hours, so I made a mug of tea and ate apple slices dipped in peanut butter for breakfast. It was the first time I’d done that and it was delicious! I really should have taken a picture, but I was much too grumpy about the rain and it was super dark in the Hobbit Hole.

Later in the morning, I noticed that the water on our table out back had started to freeze.

It was still raining, but I decided to go outside to find the beauty in the rain instead of just complaining about it. 

It was clearly not snowing, but the rain made everything look pretty.

As we cycle through the seasons again, I know I'm going to enjoy realizing how different each season is from the one we experienced the year before. I had no idea each winter or fall was so distinct and unique growing up in California! I don't mean the colors of the leaves, or the snow. I mean how one year a tree turns bright red in the fall, and the next year, its leaves are more of a deep burgundy. Last year all the plants had died by the time it snowed, but this year there's still quite a bit of green left. 

Leftover lentil and tempeh lettuce wraps were consumed for lunch...I purposely planned extra healthy recipes for Aaron and I early this week because I know we'll eat a lot over Thanksgiving! It was only the second time I've made tempeh. The first time was an epic failure, but these lettuce wraps were delicious. Aaron loved them too!

Early in the afternoon, it actually started snowing! Giddy, I ran outside and took some more pictures.

We spent the rest of the afternoon indoors. Aaron has plenty of studying to do and I had a few more things to edit, ideas to research, and emails to send. I took a break to do about twenty minutes of yoga.

Since it's been cold, Hobbes has enjoyed sleeping in my lap in the afternoons, as long as I have a fuzzy blanket. During the summer and fall, most afternoons found her in the bed in the windowsill, but now that it's winter, she quickly discovered that my lap is far warmer than the window.

Since snowy days are great days for music, here's the song I've been obsessed with lately. It's We Will Become Silhouettes, originally by the Postal Service, covered by The Shins. 

As it gets dark, I'm excited for tomorrow, and grateful for days when I can work from home, cat on my lap, husband nearby.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tofu Rice Bowl

Even if you've never consumed tofu you probably have some opinions about it.

Mine was that chunks of tofu masquerading as meat sounded disgusting.

When I was growing up, we didn't eat much red meat. We weren't quite vegetarians – we ate chicken and fish – yet soy milk and ice cream sandwiches made from tofu (Cuties) were common sights in our refrigerator. We didn't eat much tofu for dinner, however.

In my quest for a healthier diet, I decided to experiment with tofu. I bought Trader Joe’s organic tofu, which is pretty soft and kept in water. Today, I created a recipe that I found surprisingly tasty. I read a comment somewhere that if an eater was wary about eating chunks of tofu, they should utilize tofu as texture in a dish, so that was my inspiration for this rice bowl.

You can cook the rice however you usually cook it. My recipe calls for vegetable broth because I made rice a few nights ago with vegetable broth for a specific dish, and it reminded me of rice I ate in India. I was itching for an opportunity to cook rice that way again! If you don’t want to use vegetable broth or don’t have any on hand, simply omit step 1 and cook rice as normal.

The Trader Joe’s tofu comes in a 19 oz. package. I didn't have a way to measure exactly how much I used, so I've approximated the amount here. 

Tofu Rice Bowl


For the rice

1 cup rice
2 cups vegetable broth
½ Tbsp. canola oil

For the tofu

½ Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. red curry paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh minced ginger
6 oz. tofu (approximately)
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Quick drizzle of soy sauce


1. Fry the rice in the canola oil for a minute or two, and then add in the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to simmer until the rice is done, about twenty minutes.

2. Cut off a 6 oz. piece of tofu, and chop it into little pieces. Place them into the frying pan with the olive oil.

3. Cook the tofu over medium heat, and add in the red curry paste, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of soy sauce. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about five minutes.

4. Scoop rice into a bowl, and serve the tofu over the rice.

Serves 1-2.

I made this for lunch on my own today, and have just enough for leftovers during lunch tomorrow.

The tofu really breaks up in this recipe; it’s not meant to remain in chunks, as you can see in the pictures. It reminded me more of the eggs in egg fried rice. The softer consistency ensured that I wasn't tasting chunks of tofu, but I had sneakily added protein into my rice bowl for a healthier lunch.

The meal was tasty! I’m looking forward to experimenting with all the leftover tofu. I think it would be great in egg fried rice and in certain soups! If anyone has tips on how to cook really yummy tofu, please leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Birthday, Hobbes!

Am I still allowed to call Hobbes my kitten baby?

It’s her birthday today! She’s 1! On the paperwork that came with her, her birthday is listed as November 10, which means that one year ago, she came into this world and I didn’t even know her then, or even know that I would be adopting a kitten.

In fact, I blogged a year ago on this date. Those familiar with my thus far erratic posting habits may be a little surprised by this revelation, but here’s the proof. We’d just been robbed. I was a different person then. Yes, I was strong and brave through the experience, but I look back at my past self and feel a little sorry for all that she didn’t yet know. While she was seeking to refresh her perception of home with positivity, and reclaim the space that had been violated, thousands of miles away in Virginia, a cat had just been born. My past self was strong, but she was unaware that the little creature who would open a new vulnerability in her had just entered the world.

Hobbes was about six weeks old when Aaron secretly adopted her from a pet store north of Boston. For the next five days, he took care of her, waiting until that moment when he’d give her to me as one of the best and most unexpected surprises.

She stirred up new feelings in me. I call her my kitten baby, but know I don’t know a thing about what it is to be the mother of a child. Yet caring for this little creature moved something in my heart.

For the first few months of her life, I was terrified that she would somehow accidentally kill herself. She was just so tiny. She didn’t know that refrigerators are not fun places to hang out or that power cords don’t make a tasty snack. I feared the day when she could make the jump to the oven.

Fear was not the right response, and it seems a little silly as I look at her now. She’s big and still tries to eat push pins. Yet fear is not how I want to react to her or to my future children.

Love is the easy answer for how I want to react, but love is so complicated. It comprises hope and devotion and the knowledge that your life will never be the same. When confronted with these emotions, it’s easy to respond in fear. A part of my heart has been stripped bare, and I’m not always sure how to deal with that feeling.

The opposite of fear is trust. It’s not always an emotion that comes easily. Yet I’ve learned to trust Hobbes. Trust is one of the bravest emotions, because it means letting go.

On her first birthday, it’s slightly morbid to consider her eventual death. I certainly didn’t think about that when my family first adopted Checkers. Yet I know things now that I didn’t know when I was a little girl with her first cat, and that is although this pet that I love so dearly will someday go to kitty heaven, what she teaches me while she’s on earth is so much more important than that heartbreak. The love and lessons that Hobbes has already given me make these heart-rending emotions worth every minute.

So happy birthday, dear kitten baby, and here’s to all the years you will move me to trust.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rainbow Roasted Vegetables

In keeping with my idea to eat vegetarian and vegan lunches, I made a dish of colorful roasted vegetables that I wanted to share with all of you because it was so tasty!

I have been very inspired by some gorgeous purple, yellow, and orange carrots that I purchased at Trader Joe's. They are so pretty and add a pop of color because at this point in my food journey, most of my vegetable dishes are entirely green. Long time Sputnik Prose readers can attest that broccoli and Brussels sprouts usually compose the majority of any vegetable dish we make in the Hobbit Hole, so I have been having a lot of fun, especially with the purple carrots!

To gain some extra healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants, I decided to add nuts to the meal. I had pecans on hand, so I tossed those into the mix. They added a new dimension of flavor and I would definitely use that particular type of nut again, although pine nuts or walnuts would lend themselves well to this dish.

Of course I threw in Brussels sprouts, since they're almost always found in my fridge.

I'm excited to plan out my meals for this week and try to introduce a new vegetable or two to the menu! I'm also considering tempeh or tofu to add protein into vegetable dishes.

Below is the recipe:

Rainbow Roasted Vegetables


3 large carrots
8 oz. Brussels sprouts (this is half of a 16 oz. Trader Joe's bag)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
small handful pecans
salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Slice the carrots into coins, and cut the Brussels sprouts in half.

3. Pour the vegetables into a baking dish (I used an 8x8 glass dish), add in the pecans, and drizzle the olive oil over the mix. Add spices to taste; you can get creative and add in whatever spices you enjoy! I love spicy food, so I added crushed red peppers.

5. Roast the vegetables for 50-60 minutes.

The dish was easy and delicious! I'd love to hear what you would add to this dish. I think potatoes or butternut squash could be really tasty. Let me know if you make it!

Hobbes wants to eat it, too!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Changes and Ideas

First off, yes, this is only my fourth blog post in October, a month that is now almost over. There’s not really much excuse for that, except that my mom visited me for a week in the middle of the month!

It was so great to see her and share our new home with her. Now that we’ve been here for well over a year, it seems strange that some people close to us still have not seen the Hobbit Hole or met Hobbes. Not that I’m blaming anyone; it’s just weird to me that this place has become a part of my identity, for better or worse, and there are still people I count among my closest of friends who only know this side of me through hearsay. It’s the feeling of an exile who has found beauty in their new home.

Of course, I walked outside today to pick up some trash and throw out the compost, and realized with a start that the temperature today (a mild 51° F) was as cold as it ever got during the day where I lived in California. I used to think that was cold. Now it almost feels good. I would sit outside with a blanket by a fire in this weather. However, gone are the stints where I would work outside for hours. In many ways, I’m still adjusting.

A lot of new things have happened this month. The leaves are almost all gone. Aaron has been considering summer internships. I had the opportunity to interview a few of my personal heroes, including new authors Pierce Brown and Edan Lepucki. I was able to show my mom one of my new favorite cities, Boston, and eat bacon grease buttered popcorn with her at J. M. Curley’s, which is still one of my favorite foods. I've also read some unexpected books, i.e., nonfiction, and have really enjoyed them. I hope to do a blog post on that topic next week!

Another of next week’s blog posts will be my new foray into vegetarian/vegan food. I did some research for an upcoming ThriveWire article (although I won’t give you any spoilers yet!) and was fascinated. I've said it many times on Sputnik Prose, whenever I modify a recipe to make it vegetarian, that I have several vegetarian friends, and a handful of vegan friends, and while Aaron and I are pretty solidly in the carnivore category, I have been incredibly fascinated by what they eat.

I had a lot of success this past week with vegetarian dishes. I was feeling a little bit sick, which I attributed mainly to the gloomy weather, and so have been extra conscious about what I've put into my body since Tuesday (other than mid-week cookies; we all need balance!). I haven’t had any caffeine, and have drunk lots of water and tea. I also made an amazing rice dish with immunity boosters such as ginger and turmeric for lunch on Wednesday, and then made a delicious caprese salad last night, which was a hit even with Aaron! I almost never cook with ingredients like ginger or turmeric, and I've never before made caprese, and cooking these new dishes was really gratifying. Today I made up a tasty vegetarian lunch which I’ll be sharing with you on Monday. The more I've written about food, the more I've realized how much I love it, and I’m really excited to experiment further!

Aaron and I will still be meat eaters (note mention of bacon grease popcorn above) but I’m hoping to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our diet, which has been something of an ongoing goal for me, but one which I've decided to make more of a priority. We’ll see how this new adventure goes!

If you have any tips or resources or web sites that you think would be valuable to my exploration of vegetarian and vegan food, please, please share them!

So, lots of changes. Not many blog posts. But I’m back with ideas, and excited to share them with you readers!

To end off, I’d like to share some of my recent ThriveWire articles…

Interview with Pierce Brown, Part 1 and Part 2.

Interview with Edan Lepucki, Part 1 and Part 2.

10 Farm-to-Table Ice Creameries around the United States.

I received my first phone call from Italy, and got to speak with Giorgia Caporuscio, an award-winning twenty-somethings pizza maker!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cut Your Own Hair!

I did something crazy today.

No, it was not eating pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for breakfast or singing to Hobbes all day long.

I cut my own hair!

There’s a backstory to this random crazy decision, and it starts with my husband. Aaron has never paid for a haircut as long as I’ve known him (which is five years now!). In college, he had his hair cut by friends.

When Aaron and I got married, however, he asked me to cut his hair. I didn’t want to cut it at all, but when a friend gifted us an extra razor set that he had, I caved and agreed to try it. I’ll be honest: I’m pretty sure I cried after that first haircut, even though Aaron said he loved it, but we were saving up money and paying off college loans, so I reluctantly agreed to do it again.

Lots of tears and almost three years later, I’ve reached a point where I actually feel like I’m halfway decent at cutting his hair. There are no more tears. I don’t rely on the razor as much. Haircuts are no longer dreaded events in the Cooke household.

However, if you’d told me three years ago that I would have cut my own hair today, I would have politely giggled and privately entertained notions of your insanity.

Yet a few weeks ago, I pinned a tutorial to Pinterest, and that got me thinking. I haven’t had my hair cut since February, so after a few weeks of mulling it over, I decided to try my hand at cutting my own hair. After further incredibly academic and thorough Pinterest research, I found two tutorials to help guide me: one at Diary of a Mad Crafter and How-To Hair Girl.

Right as I was getting ready to take before shots in the backyard, one of our upstairs neighbors came down into the yard to wash his bike with the hose. After Hobbes creepily stared at him (I definitely didn’t do that), I turned on some pump-up tunes (Shake It Off by Taylor Swift and California Gurls by Katy Perry) and cooked dinner while I waited for him to leave. Yep, I’m a creepy hermit sometimes.

Neighbor gone, I got to work. I pulled my hair into a ponytail as the tutorials suggested. 

As I looked at the ponytail, I realized there were three distinct layers in the hair. So I sectioned these off with ponytails, and then cut each of them, one at a time. 

Apprehensively, I took out the ponytail holders. My hair looked okay! I wet it and brushed it and then turned my attention to the front of my hair. I like to have layers around my face, so I cut those by taking a section of hair, and then cutting the section in a downward motion so those pieces closest to my face would be short, and the ones furthest from my face would be long. I also took the strands of hair in front of my ears and did the same thing.

I was pleased, but felt like my hair was still too long. So I put my hair in a low pony and cut off the longest ends.

It wasn't a drastic haircut by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m immensely proud of myself. My hair feels lighter and healthier. 

Even though I was grumpy and cried through the process, I've somehow morphed into a person willing to cut her own hair. Those first few haircuts of Aaron's were awful, in my opinion (although friends assured me they looked fine), but I'm grateful that Aaron pushed me to keep trying. Sometimes I give up too easily. The hair-cutting process, even though it's just a small, silly aspect of life, has taught me about persistence and not doubting myself.

And the results are pretty fantastic! Overall, I’m really pleased with the haircut.