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5.24.2011

Top of the Hill Restaurant, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

We are nearing the end of our trip in Chapel Hill. Tomorrow we head out to Nags Head to view some of North Carolina's coast. How exciting! I love the ocean and with the heat we have been embracing here in NC, I would like to feel some cooler temperatures. I am SO not complaining!

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Last night, we dined at Top of the Hill with all our NC friends. This place was located in the heart of University of North Carolina's campus on Franklin Street and on the roof of a building. I was looking forward seeing the view from the top. Chapel Hill is definitely a beautiful city especially for a college town. I HAVE to say that I like it better than Michigan State's campus town. It seems more quaint and lots of history seems intact. I like that. Ryan preferred the industrial city of Lansing, which confused me but I was glad to hear his opinion.

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We had one more friend arrive from Michigan after a long day of flight delays but at least he made it. It was great to add another friend to the group. It was a gorgeous evening for sitting out in the patio especially since we were not the only ones with the same idea. Good thing we had reservations because we got great seats with the sun setting on our faces.

Thanks to our friends, this restaurant turned out to be such a delight. They have such a unique menu using very fresh ingredients. I was just telling Ryan that it is not everyday you get to step into a restaurant that has unique menu items to choose from. This restaurant was definitely unique!

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Some of the menu items that tantalized us were the Sweet Potato Cheese Fries that were topped with melted white cheddar, gorgonzola, scallions with some creole spicy ketchup. I had 2 fries but it did not quite intrigue me.

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The other appetizer chosen was the Baked Crab Dip made with artichokes, spinach, and cream cheese along with some crostini. I heard that this was lovely.

Another recommended must were the Lizard Chips which consisted of sliced dill pickle & jalapeño chips crispy fried in their homemade beer batter and served with chipotle ranch dipping sauce. I had 2 fried pickles and liked them ALOT. Lately I have been craving pickled or mustardy foods so this was nice to try.

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Ryan and I were tantalized by the French Onion Soup so we each ordered a bowl. I have not had this soup in more than 4-5 years so it was SO delicious savoring a warm delicious soup. There was a lot of cheese and a perfect amount of it on top of a piece of bread. YUM!

Now, I could have very well just ordered a salad to finish off my meal but I really was wanting to try one of their unique entrees. Their Wild Mushroom Grit Cakes called my name because it sounded so gourmet without any meat. Here are the ingredients:

portobello shiitake & oyster mushrooms sautéed in a rosemary cashew cream sauce ladled over crisp stone ground grit cakes

I know right???

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I got the dish and well, the flavors were not exactly what I imagined. after 4 bites I started getting nauseous and realized that the dish was not going to cut it. I knew that if I continued anymore that I was not going to be a pretty sight. The flavors in the cream sauce were not distinguishable but I am thinking I imagined this to be a cashew cream and not a cream , dairy-based sauce. Silly me...I pretty much asked for it.

Even though I have not been eating vegan I know I have been trying to make the right choices when eating out, but sometimes it is hit and miss. My gut feeling told me to stick with a salad but I probably just ordered the wrong dish. 

Either way, the restaurant was great and others enjoyed their meals so all in all, if you have a chance to come to Chapel Hill, try Top of the Hill!

5.21.2011

Chopped Asian Kale Salad

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We are having a grand time in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. It officially feels like summer with the weather being sunny every day. Ahhhh, so nice. It feels like winter went on forever and that spring hardly made an appearance. I am glad that I am able to get some quality Vitamin D.

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It took us a total of 12 hours to drive from East Lansing to Chapel Hill, although we almost thought we made really great time when we thought we were arriving in 11 hours. Somehow our GPS was not corrected to daylight savings time so even though it was telling us we were about to arrive in 15 minutes it told us we have 70 miles to go. It was REALLY wacky. How does a GPS not automatically adjust?? Either way, we were bummer we had an extra hour before we arrived and could meet our friends for dinner. BOY was I hungry!

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Why are we in North Carolina? Well, Ryan and 2 other grad students were comissioned to compose choral pieces for a friend who is now teaching at a high school in Chapel Hill. They have been spending time coaching and teaching different choirs their compositions. It has been really neat. Their performance is this coming Tuesday so I am really looking forward hearing these great pieces.

What have I been doing? Well I am totally doing much better. The pain is all gone and I am almost finished with my antibiotics. It is incredible to think that I was feeling pretty crummy just this time last week. The car ride was not so bad but I had to lie down a lot because I was feeling a little car sick. It was all good though, thanks to God!

Anyway, I have been working, doing my day job wherever there is free wireless so that has been real nice. I also went by a Whole Foods and visited a friend's daughter who works in the bakery. We set up a lunch date so it was real nice to know someone else in a town I have never been.

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Yesterday, we were supposed to go to a minor league game at the Durham Ball Park but the only seats left were on the lawn and noone was really excited about that so we just hung around the American Tobacco area and decided to eat outdoors at a Cuban restaurant. It was not the best restaurant but the company was fun and the evening was gorgeous!

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One thing I miss now that I am pregnant is not being able to enjoy in fruity alcoholic drinks. Our friends ordered mojitos and beer and I had a sweet tea. Oh well, this too shall pass. I bought a bottle of Mexican non-alcoholic sangria to go with our cook-out tonight so I am looking forward to that!

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This morning, Saturday, we slept in, which only meant 8am to me and 9:30am for the rest of the guys. I took advantage of the morning and took a walk while munching a Pink Lady apple. We had talked the night before that were going to a diner for brunch so I knew I had to put something in my tummy so I would prevent any morning sickness.

Our friend took us around Durham downtown and to a great diner called Elmos. There was a nice short wait which we had heard sometimes can be a long wait. We had a great brunch, with Ryan and I ordering omelettes with home fries and biscuits and our friends ordering biscuits and gravy and a Mexican breakfast burrito. It was good! We were assured when we arrived Wednesday that we were going to be eating alot and at good places so we have been prepared.

After brunch, we stopped at the grocery store because we were invited to a cookout and swim at another friend's house. I made my Papa Rusa, my Chilean Russian potato salad and my friend made an Asian Salad. I will have to update you on how our evening goes.

With that note I leave you a recipe for a salad I created before we left for North Carolina. I had a monstrous bag of curly kale I needed to use and I realy craved a salad. Let me tell you, this is something I have not craved since getting pregnant. If anything I have been feeding myslef greens because I had to but this was a whole different thing.

Once I cleaned the kale I realized I had 10 cups of fresh kale so I froze half of it and used the rest for the salad.  I stripped the leaves from the stalks and chopped in smaller chunks and massaged the leaves with sesame oil. If you have an aversion to kale or really do not know what to do with kale, this is one of the best ways to eat kale RAW. The massaging process softens the leaves and makes them easier to chew and enjoy. This was a DELICIOUS salad and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Ryan suprisingly liked it too!

Chopped Asian Kale Salad

serves 2 large portions

5-6 cups chopped curly kale, stems removed
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 avocado, diced in 1/2 inch pieces

Dressing
3 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1/2 Tablespoons ume plum vinegar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons agave nectar
3 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Wash the kale very thoroughly and dry the leaves with paper towels. Chop the leaves in smaller pieces.

Add the kale to a large bowl and drizzle the sesame oil to the leaves. Massage the leaves with your hand until the leaves have softened.

Mix the dressing ingredients and pour over the kale leaves. Mix in the avocado and serve.

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5.16.2011

Strawberry-Lime 7-up Pound Cake

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Even though it feels like fall today it is sunny and gorgeous and I do not care. As long as it is not cloudy and dreary, I am happy. I am also happy because I am feeling better as of today. Praise to God, that depite it being almost 3 weeks of being in this pain, He hears my prayers.


Let me tell you something. This has truly been a test for me. Have I been a whiny baby and been obnoxious to be around? I have tried really hard to be a good sport about how I am feeling but there were days I was in tears because the pain was excrutiating. Yes. I have really never been in this type of pain before. I really was not convinced yet to take Vicodin because I was not thrilled at ALL to be giving that to my baby even if the doctor says it is safe.

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A test of how I have been feeling is when my husband tells me today that he has not seen me as happy as I have been today in 2 weeks. Is that not sad? Even my appetite seems a little back to normal.


Either way, back to testing. I really realized that my reliance on self is futile. If I proclaim to be a Christian and do not depend on my Creator to be my sustainer even in my pain, what is the point? Hopelessness sets in and then depression and self-pity. I questioned God why I needed to go through this because I was definitely not enjoying being pregnant. I find it healthy to question God just as long as I know that my dependence is still for Him.


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Ironic enough, this time has really been teaching me to continually stay in prayer and to remember my first love, the God who has given me the gift of life in my womb even if it means going through pain just for a little bit. I can't explain why it appeared but I know it has made me stronger and continually makes me stronger.


My husband's patience is also a test of love, the love God has for me. Ryan has truly been patient and has been such an amazing husband through this time. We sure have not been tested as much as now, especially when it comes to our characters.


Our 3rd anniversary is tomorrow and I can only continue to thank God for such a loving and supporting husband. It is really worth the wait for the man God has ready for you all out there!


I did promise you a recipe. Before I left for Houston almost a week and a half ago, we were invited to a BBQ at one of Ryan's professors' home. Even in a bit of pain, I decided to bring a baked good because that is what I enjoy preparing the most.


I grew up making 7-up pound cakes all the time. I also remember the countless of sticks of butter it took too. *shudder* but somehow, eating one slice was not such a guilty pleasure because it was going to be shared with others.


I took a favorite and added some summer fruits and spruced it up with a yummy icing. It is delicious and it will keep people guessing with all the flavors it has. Noone really believes it has 7-up but it makes this bundt look nice and special. Make it this summer!

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Strawberry-Lime 7-up Pound Cake

adapted from All Recipes

serves 14 (makes one 10-inch bundt)

1 cup Earth Balance buttery margarine
1/2 cup Spectrum all-vegetable shortening
2 cups vegan sugar
4 eggs or
(make 4 flax eggs (4 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 8 Tbsp warm water)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon lime extract
1 Tablespoon lime zest
7 fluid ounces lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage (like 7-up)
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

Lime icing

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
juice from 1 1/2 limes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs (or flax eggs) one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and lime extracts and lime zest. Beat in the flour alternately with the lemon-lime soda, mixing just until incorporated.

Add 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries to the bottom of the bundt cake. Pour half the batter into prepared pan. Add 1 cup of the sliced strawberries on top of the batter and then add the remaining batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool on a cake rack for 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the lime icing. Sift the powder sugar in a bowl and then add the lime juice. The icing will be tangy but it will be perfect on the bundt cake.

Brush the icing on the cake and then drizzle the remaining icing for decoration.

5.15.2011

Back for a little bit......

HI everyone. It has been almost 2 weeks and I am super shocked with even myself at how quickly time flies.

Since my last post alot has happened. True be told, I have not been able to sit comfortably for almost 3 weeks now and really have not had a desire to stay on the computer except for my day job. :(

My pain is not yet over. I went for my 17-week pre-natal visit and a check-up to see what else could be said of my lower back pain. The health of the baby is perfect, it just happens to be that the mother's well-being is not well at all. I found out that I lost 7 pounds as well! I was shocked to realize that it could be but I have not been able to keep many dinners in my tummy and the pain has also made me lose my appetite.

Not a great combination. The doctor gave me Vicodin for the pain and an antibiotic. I know that I am sounding pretty evasive but it is rather unknown what I have. It is not muscular and it is not bone related, all I know that is is somehow related to my pregnancy.

The only pain meds I take are Tylenol but even that I am tired of using because it only numbs the pain and then returns in full force not fixing anything. I hate that. In general, I have had many friends and family continually pray for me since I have upcoming trips happening that require lots of sitting which would mean I woudl be in pain very often. Walking had also been exacerbating the issue but after taking a long walk with Ryan today I think things are looking up.

I do have a recipe to share but it will have to wait for later. I only wanted to check in with folks and let you know I was not all together gone.

Smoothies are happening in the morning, with light lunches consisting of sandwiches and snacks, and dinners have mostly been at restaurants. It is a sad situation for now since I can't really cook but I did cook today! We will be leaving for vacation so there won't be a lot of cooking happening. I hope to report a bit from North Carolina!

5.02.2011

Pain in the Right Butt

Do you like how specific I am? I am 15 weeks pregnant and a bot frustrated since the end of the week last week. I know my blog has primarily been about my life and then some recipes, but somehow, lately, I realized I need to journal and vent a bit.


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After a nice breakfast of oatmeal and a berry salad I started on a new routine.


I have been praying lately asking God why I am dealing with silly painful difficulties when all I want is to have a happy and wonderful pregnancy. This might seem so naive of me, but let me share a little of what has been going on.


I worked out twice last week, Monday and Tuesday, and then by Thursday I started getting this tightness in my buttocks. I wondered if it was a digestion things, since my nausea and eating habits have been a little skewed lately. There was tightness, soreness and the painful jabbing that was not going away. What could I have possibly done?


I had a friend suggest for me to look up ""Piriformis Syndrome." Here is a picture:


Apparently the Piriformus muscle is pressing on my sciatic nerve and causing a pain everytime I sit for long periods of time or even sit for little periods of time. I already sleep on my side at nights so that had been helping.


The crazy thing is that I had been stretching every morning when I woke up but that was not enough to cause this. Apprently my day job (which is working from home, practically sitting all day) plus pregnacy is finally taking a toll on my glutes. They have decided to set it with amnsesia, not knowing how to work.


I have a lump of nerves on my crack that brings alot of pain. I know this is ALOT of information but I somehow find it relazing being able to write it out. Changes to my uterus and having a baby growing inside of me is definitely setting a lot of changes on my body that I did not expect.


What have I have been doing to offset this pain? I have already been to the chiropractor last month to fix some lower back pain and I found out that I do have a shorter right leg and that my pelvis is not quite set in place. I figure these things caused what I now had that the chiropractor did not tell me to anticipate.


I found some exercises to be useful here at Baby Bump Fitness where they show me how I can use a foam roller in addition to a map to work on my butt muscles. I have to say that the foam roller is SUPER painful but once I get up and start moving and walking I feel so much better so I can't wait to get on that every 2 hours. I also used several YouTube videos that showed me different exercises. Having the internet is great especially when you find forums that state that chiropractors and physical therapies are just a waste of time. Doing my own exercises save me money.


I am getting up MORE periodically from working on the computer and taking walks or stretching out more often. Please pray that this pain goes away. I am extremely frustrated at being in pain and being irritated by the fact that I do not feel comfort.

Thanks for hearing me out!
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