Sunday, April 7, 2013

One way I cook with tofu

Tofu is like a dirty word to some - mention it in a group, and you'll instantly see noses turn up.  At first, I was clueless about how to prepare tofu and integrate it into our meals.

Fortunately, I have become more tofu savvy and cook with it all the time.  Now I'm on a mission to turn other people into tofu converts.  So here's one way we commonly cook tofu:

I buy the extra firm or super firm tofu variety for most recipes because it has more of a solid texture (it also comes in silken form).  Sometimes, I buy the already cubed tofu, but most brands of tofu come in large blocks that require you to cut it up into smaller pieces.  Because most tofu comes packaged in water, you will want to dry it out a little before cooking for an even firmer texture.  I pull out a couple of hand towels to soak up the moisture. Usually, I cut up the block into smaller pieces and THEN blot the moisture out.

After covering the tofu with the towels, I press down gently and then leave the towels on the tofu for about 5 minutes. Once I'm done waiting, into the pan it goes!

It is totally normal for the tofu to break up a little
 like you see in this picture.  
I add a few tablespoons of oil with my tofu and turn the heat up to medium-high.  I use a wooden spoon to stir until it becomes golden brown.  Then, comes the good part - flavoring!  Because tofu is really absorbent, you can marinate it in anything.

**As a side note, I always found the aversion to going vegetarian curious - almost every recipe with meat calls for outside seasonings or sauces for flavor - why not switch to a healthier alternative like tofu? Ok, sermon over.**

One last tip: if you don't like the soft texture of tofu, cut your tofu pieces smaller.  Big pieces of tofu have the golden brown outside and a lot of the soft-textured tofu inside.  The smaller your pieces are, the more of the crunchiness you'll have from cooking. 

We made an asian salad for this recipe, so I added some soy sauce into the pan.  In addition to the soy sauce flavored tofu, we combined:

1) bagged salad
2) dry roasted peanuts
3) raw water chestnuts
4) won ton strips

And that's it!

Get yourself a BIG bowl of salad (I eat about half the bag)
and enjoy the final product!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

We are human BEINGS not human DOINGS

I sometimes wonder if the show The Walking Dead (you know, the TV show about the zombies?) is more real life than we all realize!  So many of us are exhausted, worn out, dog tired, or dead on our feet.  Despite the toll that sleep deprivation and stress take on our relationships and health, we've become a culture that glorifies busyness.

How many times have you asked someone how they've been and they respond: "BUSY!"?  The response almost comes across as an boast and an invitation to ask about the person's activities.   Working towards goals and being engaged in our jobs, families, and communities can be incredibly satisfying and lead to fulfilling results.  Action is how we turn our dreams into reality.  But where do we stop?  And at how much does this productivity cost us?

It's as if busyness is a new form of "keeping up with the Joneses" and somehow, checking more items of your to-do list makes you a better person.  Or, blame it on the Protestant work ethic that has permanently left its mark on how we view society and shaped our opinions of how its members should act.  Or maybe it's even a way to bring meaning to our lives (your life obviously cannot be trivial if you are booked up solid all day every day, right?).

I can attest to feeling anxious or jittery when I'm not working on something.  I feel lazy if I'm not engaged in something productive.  Periods of time of inactivity and quiet are not a vacation or laziness.  Solitude, reflection, and times of idleness are necessary for our heath and allows us to take a step back to get a macro perspective of our lives.  It inspires us to make connections we wouldn't otherwise see because we've got our heads down in focused work.

I don't write this from a perspective of having this balance all figured out - I continue to learn what works for me and what doesn't.   Sometimes, I still over commit and have to lean on my family when I feel like I'm about to have a meltdown.  Thank goodness for a supportive family and a resolve to improve!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The challenges of being a bunny momma

Every year a Easter approaches, I cringe just thinking about how many adorable little baby bunnies will be purchased, then abandoned (pet rabbits CANNOT survive outside), or flooding animal shelters.   6 years ago, I was just as impulsive when I decided to take on a pet rabbit.

My in-laws were shopping local yard sales and knowing that Aaron and I were looking to take on a small animal for our apartment at IU, they called us to tell us that someone was giving their rabbit away for free at the yard sale.  Awesome, I know.  We decided to take her, and promptly went to the store to buy her all the  "necessities."

As we started doing our research, we learned we were doing all the wrong things: feeding her food that was a horrible diet (but is very colorful and enticing at the store), providing her bedding that was toxic (which is also very easy to buy at the store), and not giving her enough space for exercise.  Learn from my initial mistakes and check out my tips for responsible rabbit ownership:

1) Rabbits need a diet of 80% hay and the other 20% should be fresh vegetables (ideally leafy greens).  Don't bother buying the colorful trail mix at the pet store - most of it is junk and should not be consumed by rabbits.  To save money per pound, we buy 50 pound boxes of hay from a feed store.

2) Look for a rabbit-savvy vet.  Most of the time, you end up having to go to an exotic vet and paying a premium unless you are lucky to find a vet who has gone out of his or her way to study rabbits.

3) Rabbits need lots of space - our rabbit Mimzy has a 3 ft. x 9 ft. cage, and she is let out every evening for supervised exercise.

4) Be prepared to clean - a lot!  While rabbits are easily litterbox trained, they get their hay EVERYWHERE.  And the hay they eat makes the room where they live smell..... organic.

5) Get your pet rabbit spayed or neutered.  They are EXTREMELY susceptible to reproductive cancer and fixing them prevents these from developing.

6) Most rabbits do not like being picked up and are extremely fragile (they can break their own backs by kicking too hard).  When they bite, it REALLY hurts (trust me, I know - Mimzy is a biter!), so they may not be ideal pets for small children.

7) They can live between 7-10+ years.  Mimzy is 8 years old now!

Aaron and I will undoubtedly adopt another rabbit after Mimzy passes because we've fallen in love with the little creatures, but they are definitely a lot of work!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Embracing the runner in me

A little more than a year ago, I would have never said this.  I would have told you that running caused a lot of pain and frustration.  And it makes you feel like a complete klutz (when I first decided I wanted to run, my gait was less than smooth, and I felt clunky!). 

As strange as it is, I had to practice to get better at running.  At learning how to listen to my body, how to breathe, how to adequately hydrate myself, and how to deal with the disappointment of not performing at the level I desired.

 I am so thankful that I now look forward to my runs and feel like it allows me to see my life from a more positive perspective.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Guinness World Record Challenge: Most Pet Food Donated in One Week

We give away 50 tons of pet food every year -
we can use all the donations we can get!
In a previous post, I mentioned a goal that I am working towards of "global proportions."  I'm finally ready to share my secret: I am organizing an effort to break a Guinness World Record for the Most Pet Food Donated in One Week!

This record of course, will benefit the pet food pantry I manage: The Indianapolis Pet Food Pantry and Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside will take credit for the record.  Our goals are simple:

1) Collect enough food to break the record (a little more than 13,000 pounds - here is the record:

2) Draw attention to FIDO's work.  Even though FIDO is a small non-profit, we have big work to do (help improve the quality of life for Indy's outside dog by getting them adequate shelter and getting them off chains), and more people need to know about what FIDO does so they know how to report abuse and neglect. 

3) Bring in more FIDO supporters.  We can always use more donors and volunteers!

The record attempt will take place September 22nd - 28th

I couldn't be more excited!!!  This is a really fun way to help animals AND attempting to break a world record is on my life's to-do list!  Ahh!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

You should know!

It's good to be back after a blog hiatus (unplanned!)...

Here are a few things you might not know about me:
I love kittehs!
  • I absolutely hate raw tomatoes, but I will go to town on salsa. 
  • I am truly a cat person who just happens to love dogs too.  I think I can relate to cats more in that they are so adventurous and curious. 
  • Even though I'm a cat person, I can think of no better way to spend a rainy afternoon than napping with my two pooches!
  • I have a ridiculously long life goal's list - like, we're talking over 200 goals, folks!
  • I am totally a night person.  I have tried a few times to pretend to like going to bed early and being a go-getter in the morning, but it just ain't happening!  I'm writing this at a quarter til' 1.....
  • Diet coke is a perfectly acceptable morning beverage. 
  • My degree is in economics, and if you'd told me several years ago that I would be working at an animal shelter, I would have laughed at you.
  • Speaking of animal shelters..... Some day, I want to put my business training and background in economics to use and do research for the field.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hello 2013!

My "big idea" for 2012 was having more fun and adventure, and I think I was successful!

I learned to ski in California, I got into mountain biking, I camped, I went sledding, I weaved through the crowds of Venice beach, tried my hand at surfing, skateboarded, completed a marathon, played soccer, roadtripped all over Indiana, saw Hollywood, experienced the freeways of Los Angeles, slept in the Grand Canyon and saw the most beautiful display of stars I've ever seen, hiked to an Indian reservation 8 miles from the nearest road, and swam in water so blue it looked like kool-aid.

Here are a few goals for the coming year:

  • Have more fun!  
    • We are going to try kayaking this summer.  
    • I am going to enter my first mountain bike race EVER. 
    • We're going skiing again!
  • Continue to stay active 
    • I already have another marathon picked out for this year in October (  Can't wait!!
    • Complete my first triathlon - Aaron will be doing this with me.  We haven't chosen our triathlon yet... that's something we need to do. 
    • I am going to continue mountain biking and will try to improve my skills and speed. 
  • Accomplish something related to my interest in music
    • Some may not know this, but Aaron and I met in choir class in high school.  I have put my interest in music on the back burner for a while, but I think I'm ready to get involved again.  I don't know if that means learning to play a few songs on the piano for church (or on the guitar?) or auditioning for a musical or choir, but this is something I've been wanting to do for quite some time.  
  • Pay off a high interest student loan 
    • I have one in mind already, and I have a strategy!  Unfortunately, it means we will be taking a smaller vacation this year, but I think it will be worth it.
  • Expand our small business
    • We're hoping to relaunch a redesigned website and increase our revenue by 15%.  
  • Make better choices for the environment 
    • We started recycling this year (and now only put our garbage out every 2 months!), so we'll continue that. 
    • I will not be buying any new clothing during 2013.  All of my clothing will be from thrift stores or yard sales (unless I'm buying undergarments or swimsuits or if I cannot find a reasonable replacement for a pair of shoes). 
    • We are going vegan.  This one scares me - we've been vegetarian almost 4 years now, but we're ready to take the plunge and go vegan.  I'm afraid that I will send extra time in the kitchen or have trouble grocery shopping.  We shall see, and I will be happy to share my thoughts on the topic.  So, why is being vegan better for the planet (and the animals and our bodies)?  Click here:
  • Expand my Spanish skills 
    • I am one of three translators for our shelter, and unfortunately, I still have a lot to learn!  In late 2012, I started listen to the Latin radio station in Indianapolis.  I will continue this and will add in some dedicated study time/note-taking.  
    • Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mom's innate ability to make any space tidy and orderly. First, I am going to start with decluttering to see how far that takes me, and then, I'll focus on some specific projects. 
  • Secret goal: I am still not quite ready to reveal this, but I am working on a project of global proportions!
While this may seem like a lot of goals to work on, a lot of them are either things I've already doing and are expanding upon or are one-time goals.  Either way, I'm excited for what 2013 will bring!