I’m normally someone who doesn’t like my food to touch, but there are some exceptions and this sweet & spicy bowl is one of them. Everything touches and I love it! Did I just make that sound a little strange? It’s just that I’m really excited about how the sweet, spicy and savory flavors in this just go come together so well. It makes me happy when I make dinner for me and Bob and both of us can wholeheartedly agree that it’s the bee’s knees. Because there are times when I’m, OMG this is great and he’s all, It was okay. This mostly happens with soup though. I am a huge soup lover. He’s not. And yet! I make soup almost every single week. I’m convinced that one day he will turn around and tell me, “I love soup! I want you to make soup every day!”. Or something like that. That’s not really how he talks.
I was inspired by this vegan Cuban bowl, but like always, wanted to put my own spin on it. I knew I wanted to fix a simple salsa and include the black beans so as to impart the spicy and fresh flavors to the beans. I also knew I wanted some of the salsa juice to seep into the rice (yum!) so the salsa had to be the layer just above. And the sweet potatoes and plantains were to be roasted and fried (respectively) in lightly sweet extra-virgin coconut oil. The avocado would have been great, if not for the completely rotten inside. I swear, every time I cut into a bad avocado, it’s like my hopes are dashed. “Noooooo!”, is what I scream in my head. And this one was bad, people. All brown, stringy and dried out so much that nothing was salvageable. What’s funny is that the next day, I had the perfect avocado. It was truly a thing of beauty. Take a look for yourself.
Anyway, my point is find yourself a good avocado and put it in this. It’ll be grand.
Trust me, this is easy easy stuff that doesn’t require you to stick so strictly to the recipe. I love that. In a nutshell, it’s this: roast the potatoes, fry the plantains, make the salsa and boil the rice. Add as much spice as you can handle. Put it all together and sweet, spicy, salsa-y magic happens in your mouth.
Sweet & Spicy Burrito Bowl (adapted from The Wanderlust Kitchen)
serves about 6
3 large sweet potatoes
3 sweet plantains (the best are the ones that are almost completely black)
About 6 tablespoons coconut oil (half for the plantains, half for the potatoes)
2 cups of rice, white or brown
1 15oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes (though I used 1 in this instance)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime, or 3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons cayenne powder (more or less. I usually just eyeball the amount)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped avocado (optional, but recommended)
Sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel (or don’t peel) and dice the potatoes into small, bite-size pieces. Toss with coconut oil, a pinch of cayenne powder, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet (I had to use 2) and place in oven for about 20-30 minutes or until soft.
Salsa: Dice the tomatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the black beans, lime juice, cumin, garlic powder, olive oil honey, cayenne, half of the chopped cilantro, salt and pepper and mix. Taste and adjust along the way. Let sit.
Rice: Boil 2 cups of rice according to the package directions.
Plantains: Cut off the ends of the plantain. Use a small, sharp knife to cut down the creases of the plantain. Then peel. Slice the plantains into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces. Heat up about 2-3 tablespoons (or enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan) of coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Place the plantains evenly in the pan. You might have to do this in a couple of batches if they don’t all fit in one pan. If this is the case, take note of oil situation. If the pan dries out after the first batch, add another tablespoon before frying the second batch. And so on.
Assemble the bowls: Rice first, then bean salsa, plantains, sweet potatoes and avocado (if you have it). Finish off with the rest of the cilantro. Serve.
On the weather:
August, for the most part, has been feeling a bit chillier so I’m really happy that this week we’re getting back into the true feel of summer and reaching temps in the mid 80s again. Which means, I’m making the most of wearing as little as possible. It’s nice to be able to quickly pull on some shorts and slip into sandals. It’s one of the reasons why I love this season so much. It’s so easy and laid-back.
On giving up sugar and alcohol for a month:
Next month, Bob and I will go completely alcohol and (processed) sugar-free. The sugar will be the toughest because we’ve gotten into this habit of getting peanut butter fudge ice cream after dinner every weekend (and it’s gooood). While there’s nothing wrong with a little sweet here and there, I really want to challenge myself to make healthier creative desserts using only natural sweeteners like raw honey, dates and maple syrup. The alcohol will be a cinch though. I stopped drinking in July and still going strong! This isn’t permanent by any means. Goodness no.
On the prospective new home:
No news on the house yet. Apparently, a short sale—which is what this is—is another word for long sale. We’ve put down the offer and the bank will take weeks—weeks!—to get back to us with an answer. If we have to re-negotiate, it’ll take another few weeks. Our lease is up in December, so it’s not like we don’t have the time. But if this process takes longer than that, which it very well can, we may have to renew the lease, which means higher rent (boo!) but more time in Queens (yay!). Of course, we’ve been keeping an eye out for other prospects but so far, nothing else has really caught our attention yet.
On the new blog makeover:
I wanted something a bit more stylish, but clean, minimal and responsive. You like?!
On the weekend:
We celebrated Bob’s grandmother’s birthday over the weekend. It’s funny because she’s kind of averse to new technology but every year, someone gets her something high-techy that she has to learn to use. Last year, we gave her a Kindle. We knew it was a risk, but we decided on it anyway. She may not know how to purchase a book online (Bob’s mother does that for her), but she knows how to turn the page and that’s really all you need to know when it comes to the Kindle. She likes it. Or at least, that’s what she tell us. This year, Bob’s uncle got her a Keurig, which upon opening she laughed and said, “What am I going to do with this? I already have a coffee machine!” “But this one makes one cup at time which is perfect for you!” we all explained. Bob showed her how to work it and if you have a Keurig, you’ll know it’s pretty simple to figure out. Here’s to learning new things! Now, if we can get her into texting…
Bob and I were supposed to babysit the boys last Friday, but since my sister ended up taking off the whole week anyway, we decided to have a little family outing with all of us instead. I invited them to come to Astoria park. I knew they would enjoy the bright open space, the bridge views and the playground. And they did! The boys had a lot of fun, despite a few “misunderstandings” here and there (see below*).
*Parenting in action: “No hitting your brother!”
( ↑ Taken from Bob’s Instagram)
Bob waits on the sidelines while someone gets a talking-to.
But then we were back to business as usual: monkey bars and slides for the kids, while we looked along and chatted about So You Think You Can Dance (Ricky for the win!).
And that’s all I got for now. How was your week?
The blog is going through some changes this week, so if you see something wonky, chances are I know about it and am trying to fix it! It seems that my site isn’t playing nice with Internet Explorer or mobile devices. That said, blog customizing/designing is HARD and kind of annoying. Hopefully, I can iron out all the kinks before week’s end. Thanks for sticking with me!
- This is what happens when complete strangers from different backgrounds touch eachother for a portrait.
This powerful blueberry smoothie is full of amazing ingredients that fill you up, pump you up and make you feel good. The blueberries are superstars in that they provide healthy and high doses of antioxidants, fiber, copper, potassium and multiple vitamins. Frozen strawberries add a much-needed frostiness while giving the body vitamin C, polyphenols (protects against free radicals) and manganese (supports bone health). A little bit of avocado provides the healthy fats, while keeping this drink as creamy as can be. The chia seeds are great here because you don’t actually taste or feel their texture, yet you’re still reaping the benefits of the protein and omega-3s. And the maca? That’s optional, but I’ve been using it as a natural energy boost every now and then and it’s amazingly effective at getting me up and going. This smoothie is all that and one more thing: it’s completely delicious! It’s no wonder it’s so powerful.
As with any smoothie, this recipe is highly adaptable. You don’t need to use nut milk, like I did. Any other milk or even coconut water would be fine and should you like it more runny, then add a little more of it. If you want it more creamy, add more of that avocado. For more icyness, you can throw an ice cube or two into the mix, or even more frozen fruit. And if anything else, add more blueberries because blueberries are just the best.
Powerful Blueberry Smoothie
1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
5 frozen strawberries
1/4 flesh of an avocado
2 cups to start with of your favorite nut milk
1-2 tablespoons raw honey
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg
Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Adjust/add more ingredients to suit your taste.
So, my blender broke. Womp, womp. But I’m happy that it waited until all the ingredients were perfectly blended before it malfunctioned. I was wondering if I should get another cheap little thing or bite the bullet and go full-on Vitamix or some other high-powered blender that costs a boatload of money. But I think I’ve resolved to go with quality (cha-ching!) because in the long run, that might end up costing me less anyway. A friend has been singing the praises of the Vitamix, so I’m thinking about going in that direction. What do you think? Do you have a Vitamix or a good blender that you swear by? I’m open to suggestions.
Get ready for a rambly post and some crappy, filtered iPhone pics.
Grilled octopus and sausages at Telly’s Taverna in Astoria. ↑
Last week was…a bit off for me. One minute I was high, the other I was low. I had a lot of things on weighing on me while I was at work and it was hard to focus. So I got up from my desk, went downstairs and called Bob to vent (but mostly, panic) about, well…my life. Our lives. But Bob is so cool and collected and he quickly calmed me down and said, “It’s going to be okay”, plus some other very reassuring things. But it’s what I needed to hear. He didn’t make light of my worries or tell me I was being psychotic (even though I knew I was). He was reasonable and level-headed, when I couldn’t be. But after some time, I was able to better see things for what they were and later sent Bob a message saying “Can we forget my earlier meltdown? I’m just tremedously hormonal right now and that’s what I’m going to blame it on, okay? It wasn’t me! It’s the hormones’ fault.” Whatever we need to tell ourselves, right?
But the weekend was nice. I was in the right headspace again so I was able to enjoy it. I hung out with my friend Val on Friday night and we had dinner and dessert at Vanessa’s Dumplings and Momofuku Milk Bar, respectively. We encountered a lot of weirdos that night, but none weirder than the guy who stood right in our path and literally screamed, “Aaaaargh!” in our faces. That was interesting.
Thrift-shopping: a favorite pastime. ↑
The next day, we went to Bob’s mother’s house and I learned the secret behind her pasta sauce. It’s all in the meat! Figures. So Bob and I made a deal: I will learn his mother’s sauce and he will learn my grandmother’s mofongo.
When thrifting, Bob goes straight for the books section. I like to rummage through racks of clothes first. Found 2 tops for under $10! ↑
We put an offer on a house. It’s that small fixer-upper I was telling you about last week. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.
Branzini feast for one! ↑
As someone who lives in Astoria, I feel it’s my duty to once and for all do a Greek food hop and find the best Greek in all the land! But as it turns out, the quest is proving to be difficult in that there are so many fantastic Greek restaurants out here, including Agnanti which I’ve adored from the beginning. Last weekend, we went to Telly’s Taverna for lunch, which we haven’t been to before. Incredible food! Creamy frappes (loooove), grilled octopus, lemon potatoes and I watched carefully as the server quickly and seamlessly deboned my grilled-to-perfection branzini*. But I’m still determined to get to Taverna Kyclades which always has the most ridiculously long line to get in. Funny because there’s a Greek place directly across the street that is always depressingly empty when we pass by. No joke! The wait will be an hour for Taverna Kyclades, while the place across the street has less than 5 patrons in it. I think that speaks volumes to how great TK is!
*As I type this, I’m having leftover octopus and lemon potatoes for breakfast. Breakfast of champions!
Anyway, I’ll stop rambling and we’ll leave off with this: cross your fingers that we get this place…at our offer price (ha, fat chance). And with that, another week of emotions begins!
This past weekend, Bob and I went to see a particular house in New Jersey that we’d seen once before. It’s a single-family home with loads of potential. A fixer-upper! Which is really just a nice way of saying, it’s going to need a lot of work. But! If we can get this at the price we want, well…that’d be the best thing we could ask for. I mean, this place is practically perfect for us. Yes, it’s a bit cozy (real estate buzz word for ‘small’!) for a house, but the location is ideal, in terms of access to public transportation, shopping and NYC. We can deal with cozy.
People keep telling me not to get my hopes up too high because it could all fall through any minute. Unfortunately, it’s already too late for that. I’ve already begun to imagine barbecues in the backyard, painting over the pink walls, waking up in our new bedroom, making dinner in the granite-countertop kitchen and taking long baths in the jacuzzi (!!!). Honestly, the jacuzzi wasn’t something I was looking for, but if it comes with the house…hey, why not?
In other (unrelated) news, we also found time to go to the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Park. I hadn’t been before since I don’t find myself in that part of Queens too often, but it has been on my list of places to visit for the longest. So we went. It’s everything you’d imagine a modern museum to be: clean design, bright white open spaces and really cool exhibits to lose yourself in.
This is a minimalist’s dream library ↓
In which I found this book that instructed me how to put on my makeups! ↓
These are cupcakes, but all I see are nipples. ↓
Tiffany doesn’t just make jewelry and share breakfast pastries with Holly Golightly—she designs lamps too. And I’ll take one of these over a ring any day. That blue one in the middle that looks like a weeping willow please! ↓
A pig with a mushroom head. The artists’s words, not mine. ↓ But perhaps the best exhibit is the famous panorama of New York City. It’s truly impressive and we spent so much time just shouting out neighborhoods and spotting landmarks. In this photo, you can see Central Park on the right, part of the Bronx on the left, Randall’s Island (that green patch island with two bridges running through it), Roosevelt Island, Brooklyn and Queens (which are all across the river from Manhattan). I got such a kick spotting our neighborhood here! ↓
The only borough not pictured here is Staten Island (womp, womp, sorry SI).
If you ask me, this museum is way underrated and in the shadow of some more well-known museums in Manhattan. It is significantly smaller in size (it took us about 1 1/2 hours to get through all of it pretty thoroughly), but I think it’s worth visiting.
At the same time, I loved practically having the place to ourselves. It’s a welcome change from having to deal with the massive crowds at some of the more popular museums!