Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Since Mike and I have been spending just about every evening working down at our new house, we have been getting back to our apartment pretty late. I am usually fast asleep before I ever even think to pack a lunch for the next day. Then the next morning, I'm scrambling to throw something together and I usually end up with a few carrot sticks and a bag of popcorn to microwave. A complete and healthy lunch? I think not.

I've been searching for a light and easy salad that I can bring to work instead of the random contents of our fridge and pantry and when I saw this recipe the other day on Tasty Kitchen, I knew it was going to be just what I wanted. I needed something that wasn't really lettuce based so that it could last through the week in the fridge. This way, I could make a large batch and have it ready to go for those last minute mornings.


Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing


For the salad:
1-1/2 cup water
3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup cashew halves or peanuts
1/4 cup diced green onions
fresh lime

For the dressing:
1/4 cup all natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey (or agave)
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
water to thin, if necessary

Rinse quinoa with cold water in a mesh strainer. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water.

Remove pan from heat and fluff quinoa with fork. Place in a large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. You should have a little over 2 cups of quinoa.

To make dressing: Add peanut butter and honey or agave into a medium-sized microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.

Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. I always start out with a little bit of dressing and usually add more to suit my taste preferences. Alternatively you can save the dressing for later and add when you are ready to eat; however the flavors of the dressing usually soak into the salad so I love adding it to the quinoa first.

Next fold the red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges if desired.

Book Review - The Four Agreements

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book #5 - The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz

[image source: Goodreads]

Sorry that I didn't do a book post in May but blogging every day kept me from doing any reading. I'm back on track this month though!

I had heard about this book from several people and everyone kept raving about it. Some even said that it had changed their lives, so I thought with all of the hype I should give it a shot. I was definitely not disappointed after reading it but I wouldn't necessarily call it great either. I've never read any "self-help" books before so this was totally new to me but overall I did take some good things away from it.

Summary (source)
In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. The Four Agreements are: Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions, Always Do Your Best.

My Review
What I Loved
1. The book really did give some awesome advice. I really liked the second and third agreements and the ideas they presented. It really made me think about the way I perceive other people and how I can change that to make my life more positive. Taking all of the negative garbage that others give us can be very detrimental to our lives, so seeing people in a different light, as this book presents them, helped me to realize that we can shed a lot of that burden and be happier in general.

2. It's a relatively short book. I was able to read it in a couple of hours. I also liked the fact that, while it isn't very long, it felt like I had read something that was. There's so much packed into it that it'll definitely leave you thinking.

3. I feel like I want to read this book again. Or I guess I feel like I have to read it again in order to pick up on everything. There's a lot of good stuff to take away from this book once you can get past the writing style.

What I Didn't Love
1. The writing was incredibly segmented and choppy. I literally had to read some paragraphs three times to get what he was trying to explain. I honestly felt like I was reading the writing of someone who didn't speak English very well. Or maybe the writing of a third grader. "See this dog. See that cat. See this dog chase that cat." That kind of stuff.

2. I am not a huge fan of all the ancient Toltec fluff. I really was just looking to take away the overall message, not treat this stuff like a religion - which I'm sure some people may try to do.

3. Apart from the writing being choppy, it was also insanely repetitive. Maybe Ruiz did this to try to really drive home the principles and help readers to remember them but it really just felt redundant to me. I swear I read the exact same sentence in multiple sections throughout the book.

3 out of 5 stars

Three Years Together

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I am probably the luckiest girl in the world.

Why, you ask? Because I have the most incredible husband on earth.
I know everyone probably says that but I really feel like it's true.

Since we started dating three years ago today, he has done nothing but support me, encourage me, love me, respect me, and care for me.  In the last three years, he has taught me so much and I grow more and more in love with him every day.
Though we definitely have our ups and downs, he has made me a stronger person and he always finds a way to make me feel special. Even when I look and feel my worst, he always knows how to bring a smile to my face and make me feel beautiful.
During our first year together, he made me a card every month on the 22nd and along with a silk rose, he would place them somewhere unexpected for me to find. I found them on my car windshield on my way to work, in my dorm room after class, or on the table in my apartment accompanied by a beautiful candlelit dinner.
At the end of our first year, I had a bouquet full of roses that would never die, a box full of heartfelt cards, and memories to last a lifetime.

Needless to say, he absolutely loves to hand make things and this year was no exception.

I walked into the kitchen this morning to find a hand-made burlap clock that we can hang in our new house.
I am absolutely in love with it and I can't wait to hang it up! I think the thing that I'm most excited about is all of the awesome hand-made things we are going to have that fill our house over the years. He really is incredible.

So since I knew that I had something crafty coming my way when I woke up this morning, I wanted to surprise him with my own special gift.

I wanted to do something that was heartfelt and unique, so naturally, I went straight to Pinterest for inspiration. Ha! Gotta love it!

I ended up putting my own spin on a pin I saw for state maps. I really love how it turned out and when I brought it out to give to Mike, his face lit up.
I hand drew (well, traced) the state map and I swear, I don't think I could ever do it again. It was super detailed and kind of a pain. Why couldn't we just live in Colorado or Wyoming? Then all I'd have to trace is a square!

Anyway, he really loved it and it made me feel so good to finally do something special for him.

We are taking it easy the rest of the day and making a little surf & turf dinner together tonight. Hopefully we will get out at some point to relax and enjoy some of this gorgeous sunshine!

I hope you all have a wonderful Saturday and I will check in again next week!

Summer Days

Friday, June 21, 2013

Today is the first official day of summer!

It's a gorgeous day here in Maryland and I wish I was anywhere but my desk at work right now.

On the radio this morning, I heard all of these people talking about their plans to kick off the summer. Most were heading to the beach. Others were planning on laying out by the pool or going fishing or camping. There were even some who were just taking the day off to enjoy the outdoors. I wish I could be any of these people.

The meaning of summer has changed a lot for me over the years.

First and foremost, it used to be followed by the word "break." Gosh, I miss those days. I can still remember counting down the days, hours, and minutes until school was out.
Between summer camps, trips to the beach, pool parties, family vacations, and hanging out with the neighborhood kids every day, there was always something awesome to do.

My days were filled with sun, sprinklers, kickball, freezy pops, and crappy songs like this:

Summer Girls by LFO on Grooveshark

My nights were filled with block parties, cook-outs, fireflies, sparklers, and sleepovers.

Oh, to be a kid again.

Now, I spend my summer days in an air conditioned lab and my nights are consumed by trips to Lowe's or doing "adult" things like paying bills or buying groceries.

Why did I want to grow up again?

At least we still have weekends. Thank god we still have weekends!

And it could not have been more perfect that the first day of summer falls on a Friday this year! I know tonight Mike and I will be celebrating and we may even light a few sparklers for old times' sake.

However you are spending your day, whether in an office or out under the sun, I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful weekend!

Our First House

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I was hoping to have this posted sooner but I am still beyond excited to share with you a look at our very first home!
Age: 52 years (built in 1961)
Style: Rancher
House size: 1,674 square feet
Lot size: 12,100 square feet
Number of bedrooms: 4
Number of bathrooms: 1.5

We have been pretty busy over these last couple of weeks working on some small projects to make the house feel more like our own. We have lots of plans for bigger projects but really don't have time to take them on before we move in. Pushing them off a little also gives us time to be sure that we know exactly what we want and we can be more careful about our choices. I'll try to post photos as we tackle each one because we all know how fun it is to see the transformation!

As I've mentioned before, we are mainly focusing on the floors and the walls for now. Painting, carpet, hardwood refinishing, and cleaning are our primary to-dos. In the future though, we would like to renovate the bathrooms, build a deck, re-pave the driveway, and re-finish the basement. (It was technically a finished area until we had them rip the floors out to remove the asbestos.)

And now, for your viewing pleasure...

The Front
One of the main things that attracted us to this house was all of the updates that the previous owners had done. They put on a brand new roof and siding less than a year ago and since they had lived there for more than twenty years, I'm sure it was just about time for replacement.
It's kind of hard to see in this photo but the driveway definitely needs some work. We've been getting estimates about repairing it just to get an idea of what we are dealing with, but every contractor we have spoken to has said that they would never offer us a warranty because of the huge tree right next door. Unfortunately, it's our neighbor's tree and the big fat roots are likely what's causing the major cracking. For now, we decided to just deal with the cracks and bumps and work on finding a solution later.

The Back
We are absolutely in love with our yard. I can't wait to landscape and find a great spot for our garden!

The added shed space is really nice to have, too. We are excited to have a place to store all of our outdoor tools and stuff.

The previous owners also recently renovated the entire kitchen. It's so nice to have brand new appliances!

Living Room
Feast your eyes on that pink carpet!

Thanks to my mom for the modeling!

Dining Room
Sorry that some of these photos look green...

Master Bedroom
Bedroom 2/Guest Room
Bedroom 3/Office

Full Bathroom
And here is the fun part.. remember the little half bath that was off of our bedroom?
They're connected!
Half Bathroom
We definitely plan to renovate these in the future but for now we are enjoying every minute of their wacky outdated style!

This is was once a finished basement but you can now see where we had the flooring ripped up. Once we found out that the basement had asbestos, we didn't hesitate in having it remediated. Even though it was covered by carpet, the condition and quality of the carpet was pretty crummy. We knew that we'd want to replace it before we moved in and that would've been a much bigger hassle with the asbestos tile underneath. We didn't want to take a chance messing with it, so we thought the best option was to remove it all. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate with the sellers and have them pay for the abatement to be completed before we even went to settlement. Now we've got nice clean bare floors ready to be sealed and carpeted.

Laundry Room
Bedroom 4/Workout room

Finished Storage area

Just in case you are wondering, this is not asbestos tile. The previous owners had this part completely re-done.

Workshop area

And that, my friends, is the grand tour. I hope you enjoyed it! We will have some updated photos coming to the blog shortly to show the progress we have made so far!

Happy Wednesday!