Vanilla and Spice Pancakes

Have you ever had the cheap, fake vanilla extract that's water with food coloring, alcohol, and sugar? The J.R Watkins' brand is the exact opposite of that. 

I was pretty thrilled when I was sent pure vanilla extract and baking vanilla, which has even more extract flavor, to test out. I decided to bring luxury into something pretty common - lobster mac and cheese anyone? - in order to really see this ingredient shine.

Vanilla and Spice Pancakes

Double Chocolate Rosemary Brownies

When I was sent rosemary extract from J. R. Watkins, the flavor I requested because I'm obsessed with that herb, I was stumped.

Do I put it in a savory dish? I could. Will it turn my dish green? No. Maybe it can go into something sweet? Yes! I had success with the flavor combo of rosemary and coffee in my cookies, so it had to work in a brownie. And boy, did it. Messing with a brownie recipe is pretty sacrilegious, so I decided to use Alton Brown's tried and true approach ... but with more chocolate. 

Double Chocolate Rosemary Brownies

Pomegranate Rosemary Cocktail

Posting a cocktail recipe might seem odd since I'm in my second month out of twelve being sober. But this drink is just too pretty. 

My go-to cocktail is, was, a vodka and soda with extra lime. So refreshing and not sweet like the liquified candy you can order from any popular after-work bar.

This drink follows the same cadence, leaving the sweetness to the side, but giving you options to sip your vodka with when the occasion doesn't call for slinging back the shots straight up. The rosemary, recommended, and pomegranate seeds, optional, frankly just make you feel a little fancier. I'd say that falls under #selfcare. 

Pomegranate Rosemary Cocktail

Magazine Paper Flowers and Gift Wrapping

I've posted about these upcycled paper flowers before, but I thought I would take another go at the post because these are a special craft that I love to do. They actually crack me up with the portraits I find in GQ, and I love the NW flair I get from Seattle Met, and don't get me started with the incredibly yummy magazine pages from Martha Stewart. But these are special in the sense that I've been making them since I was in 4th grade, and it's the only tradition I have for the Christmas season. 

Magazine Paper Flowers and Gift Wrapping

Cinnamon Ornaments

I never made these cinnamon ornaments as a kid, but it's never too late to do what you missed out on. One day, I will own a Mr. Potato Head. 

The most notable thing about this little craft project is not how they look, but how they smell. Which is amazing in case you were wondering. Even though these ornaments are a new thing I'm doing, the smell of warm spices instantly equals Christmas for me. 

Cinnamon Ornaments

Portobello Mushroom Casserole

This is one of those dishes you don't need to reserve for the holidays. It's a perfect companion to the Thanksgiving table because it's a satisfying hug in a dish. But really, these flavors are perfect for any gray day - every day here in Seattle minus two weeks - so I like to make this year round. 

Portobello Mushroom Casserole

Whole30 Ribeye Steak with Korean Salad

When I hear someone call kimchi a salad, this is what I think of. Something fresh, lightly dressed, and can be whipped up in a few minutes. Not the beloved fermented Korean side dish that I sometimes eat like a main course.

No, this salad isn't a traditional dish, but the ingredients hit all the notes you're looking for in Korean cuisine. You also don't have to make a huge amount of dressing because a little goes a long way with the sesame oil and fish sauce. Grossed out by fish sauce? Just think of it as the anchovies in a caesar dressing: undetectably delicious. 

Whole30 Ribeye Steak with Korean Salad

Whole30 Korean Spicy Chicken

I let you know why I wanted to jump on Whole30, but I didn't tell you the number one reason I chose this program: I get to eat the food I actually like. 

I don't have a sweet tooth. I'm not a fan of bread-y foods. But give me some real home cooked Korean food and I'll immediately devour every last bit of it. 

Sadly in the good ol' U.S. of A., healthy lifestyles usually don't include a lot of ethnic recipes. But then I thought "Hold the phone, I'm a food blogger, I'm Korean ( well half, but's good enough for me so deal with it), and I'm cooking Korean food during my Whole30! I should share it!"

Whole30 Korean Spicy Chicken

Why I'm Doing Whole30

I really hate talking about diets. My relationship with food, just like every other human being, is complicated. My size 2 self in high school was miserable. I wasn't eating and thought being skinny was THE answer. To what? I don't know. Fast forward to my solid size 14 self, and here I was again, miserable with my body. The crappy thing though was I thought I was eating how I was supposed to. 

But my weight isn't even why I wanted to do the Whole30 program. Sure, seeing my friends on Facebook have amazing results helped but I've tried diets before. I've failed diets before. But again, I'm not talking about pounds. We all know that healthy comes in many sizes. What I'm talking about is deeper than appearances. 

Why I'm Doing Whole30

Summer Garden Tour 2016

To my surprise, we're just a couple days shy of a year since we've poked around in my edible garden. If someone could stop pressing the fast forward button, that'd be great, thanks. 

Since I'm a big believer of "grow what you actually eat", you'll see a lot of the same plants as last year. The biggest change would be our new raised bed we put in on the south side of our home. I've been able to grow veggies there, but it was a lot harder to manage when I was trying to follow the square foot gardening spacing

Now that I have the new garden box packed with great nutrient dense soil, my plants are going bananas. See for yourself.

Summer Garden Tour 2016

Spiced Tofu and Carrots

Sometimes I just can't. I've worked a full day retouching images in the dark. The bus was way too packed, which made an odd odor. And I forgot to eat breakfast, so I had an early lunch and now I'm starving for dinner. I think about takeout, or a burger. Or better yet! Order a pizza because I can use the app so I don't actually have to talk to someone. 

Then my stomach reminds me that I need to put that phone down and march into the kitchen, because she feels queasy every time I go down this road. After a quick argument I agree - she's always right - and look for something quick and easy. That's usually when I use lots of spices, put everything on one tray, and pop the food in the oven so there's the least amount of fuss possible. 

Spiced Tofu and Carrots

Crispy Hash Browns

I'll cut to the chase. Grate your potatoes if you want crispy hash browns that cook all the way through. That's the secret. 

Just like the biscuits we've made together that uses grated butter, this simple recipe - is it even a recipe if there are only 3 ingredients? - bows down to the grater that's usually an overlooked tool in the big ol' kitchen drawer. 

I will say the best thing about these hash browns is the fact that it takes less time to make than cooking store-bought frozen potatoes. I've stood in front of the stove for too long, too many times, before I learned my lesson that frozen potatoes never get crispy. NEVER. At least for me anyways.

Crispy Hash Browns

Pork Chops with Rosemary Rice

I definitely judge my food by "lit candle" worthiness. 

Spending time in the kitchen making a meal is arguably a luxury. Take the luxury even further to sit down and enjoy the meal and you've crossed into blasphemy. 

No judgement here, as I too have the spot on the couch that's carved out with the shape of my body. No matter how long you spend on a meal, we all have moments where you want to turn off your mind by allowing time spent in the rabbit hole that is YouTube. Being accompanied by homecooking is a pretty huge plus. 

But sometimes, even if I'm by myself, I will light a few candles at the dinning table while patting myself on the back with a job well done. 

Pork Chops with Rosemary Rice

Veggie Patties

Having a vegetarian husband, when I'm a meat eater, has been interesting. We've figured out how have meals together, and even though I eat less meat now, I'm able to buy higher quality steaks, when I have cavewoman cravings. 

But the biggest thing I've taken note of is the "fake meats" sold in grocery stores. In the beginning when I was trying out vegetarianism too - obviously didn't stick - we thought we were making the healthier choice if there were no animal products in the ingredients. We were wrong. So wrong. And we only found this out after we started reading the labels months latter. I never thought so many chemicals magically combined could make something taste like beef. Gross.

So here is a veggie patty that isn't supposed to mimic meat but is hearty enough to be used in a burger. 

Veggie Patties