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What better way to celebrate my return to health than an upper body weights workout and light cardio? Best of all, I practically had the hotel gym all to myself yesterday.

Except for the cleaning man who followed me around with his vacuum. (Said cleaning man was quite pleasant, but that doesn’t change the fact that the vacuum was annoying.) During his brief interlude to clean the filter, I captured photographic evidence of my [rather loud] workout intruder. Seriously, I felt like I was in the way. Um, should I leave now?¬†

After successfully dodging the vacuum, I enjoyed a convenient bowl of Starbucks oatmeal at South Coast Plaza, which is a shopper’s dream connected to our hotel. In addition to nuts, I mixed in banana slices and Starbucks dark chocolate for a delicious flavor combination. Believe me, this bowl got significantly more decadent when the chocolate melted post-stir. This was my first time trying Starbucks dark chocolate, and I’m a fan. They partner with TCHO for their chocolate, so go figure, it’s good stuff. I still prefer Ghiradelli 86% and Lindt 85%, but this is quality.

What’s that, you thought I had enough chocolate for one day? Oh, I’m sorry. No, I’m not. I’m very strict about chocolate consumption, i.e., it’s mandatory.

Room service? Don’t mind if I do.

I may have nibbled on Ghiradelli dark chocolate after dinner, too. ūüėČ Maybe it was Jenny’s chocoholic’s anonymous post, but I can’t seem to get enough dark chocolate lately. Lifting weights and increased dark chocolate consumption — sure signs of my returned vim and vigor, no?

Most importantly, thank you all¬†so much for your overwhelming support of our Southern California move! I get even more excited reading through your comments! It seems fitting for this Thankful Thursday that I’m brimming with¬†gratitude¬†for each and every one of you and for your support of our move. I’ll keep you updated on job-hunting, house-hunting, and any accompanying stress-eating. *Reaches for chocolate.* Whaaat? ūüėČ

What can you not get enough of this week?

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Happy Wednesday, Sweet Ones! Since my blog‚Äôs humble beginnings (i.e., the day I decided to snap a few pictures of dinner), I‚Äôve been somewhat evasive about our future plans. ¬ŅPor qu√©? Because we‚Äôve been making plans, y’all! Well, the time has come to lift the curtain. We‚Äôre moving to . . .

Los Angeles! Yes, it‚Äôs true! We‚Äôre moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles for wonderful opportunities presented by my budding career as an actress Velvet Husband‚Äôs career. ūüėČ All joking aside, I‚Äôm really happy and ready to explore my career opportunities in sunny Southern California.

Aside from the excitement about our careers, how do I feel about the move? I’m ready for a fresh start in a new [to us] city, and I’m processing. As many of you know, I made several moves as a child because my father’s job took our Texas-based family to Norway, Indonesia, Russia, and then back to Texas. While this upbringing instilled in me a sense of adventure, it’s also part of my makeup to crave a sense of home. Well, Velvet Husband and I have decided it’s time to try flip-flops, palm trees, and avocados on for size and see how it feels to call Southern California home. We don’t know how long we’ll be in LA, but we’re confident that this a step in the right direction for us. We’re challenging ourselves and growing individually and as a couple as we make these oh-so-very adult decisions. For now, I’m learning to be comfortable with the unknown that lies ahead. Not easy for a girl who feels lost without her trusty [Lilly Pulitzer] planner. And yes, zee planner matches zee phone cover. Too matchy matchy, you say? I think not. I digress. Point is, as always, faith is my source of strength during this transitional time.

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

And so, we take the first step. We‚Äôre staying at a hotel in Costa Mesa while Velvet Husband is at a work-related hearing and I scour the net for places to live in our community of choice, gorgeous Pasadena. Our goal is to move here in the next month and get comfortable in our (gulp) new home. In addition to a place to live, I’m also looking for a job (Mama needs a job, y’all!), so any and all leads are welcome. Yes, change is afoot!

Again, thank you so very much for your sweet comments wishing me a speedy recovery. Your sweet words mean so much to me! I’m happy to report that after taking a turn for the worse on Monday, I’m feeling much better today. Good enough to workout this morning, even. Hope each of you is enjoying a lovely day!

Are you in the midst of a transition of any kind? Do tell!

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In search of a new way to prepare my morning oats, I settled on Chocolate-Covered Katie’s recipe for¬†Cookie Dough Baked Oatmeal (Boatmeal). After leaving the broiler on too long, however, the first attempt came out a tad charred. Oops.

But the second¬†boatmeal turned out swimmingly! Did someone say perfectionist? I like to call myself a recovering perfectionista, but that’s a story for another day. ūüėČ Regardless, my taste buds were happy beneficiaries this morning. I mean, do you see anything wrong with this?¬†

Because I don’t. And Velvet Husband, who is more laid back than I and unaffected by slight charring, enjoyed boatmeal number one in addition to his oversugared¬†coffee shop bear claw¬†unspecified baked good. By the by, if you’re vegan or otherwise craving chocolate-covered and exceptional breakfasts and desserts, what are you still doing hangin’ around here? Check out¬†Chocolate-Covered¬†Katie, stat!

There are so many possible variations of this recipe (e.g. almond, rice, soy, or dairy milk in place of water, no cinnamon, syrup or sweetener, apple sauce instead of banana, almond butter instead of peanut butter, raisins instead of chocolate chips, craisins instead of raisins, butterscotch chips, coconut flakes, white chocolate chips, protein powder, chia seeds…), that you can expect to see many more boatmeal appearances in the future.¬†And if you’d like to eat what I’m eating (I’ll have what she’s having!), here was this morning’s first take on Katie’s delicious baked oatmeal. I added an extra dollop of peanut butter for a decadent and healthy breakfast treat.

Chocolate-Covered Katie Cookie Dough Baked Oatmeal (Boatmeal)

Spray a small ramekin with cooking spray of your choice so the cake pops out after baking. (I used olive oil spray but ended up eating mine out of the ramekin anyways.) In a small bowl, mix together the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • dash cinnamon
  • pure vanilla extract to taste
  • 1/2 banana, mashed
  • spoonful organic crunchy peanut butter
  • handful semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
Pour oatmeal mix in a small 1 cup ramekin. My 7 oz ramekin worked great. Bake for 20 minutes at 380 degrees then broil for about 3 minutes on high, careful not to overcook. Done! Also, be very careful while handling the hot ramekin. I topped mine with extra peanut butter. As always, thank you for the great recipe, Katie! I was full from breakfast all morning and into the afternoon. Breakfast success.

Any more guesses as for where we’re moving? No guessing if I’ve already told you!¬†Ahem…Heather, Rose, Cristina, Mary Anne, Ashley, Mommy, Julia, Liz, Hayley, and others! No guessing from y’all, but you can still comment! — I LOVE to hear from all of you because it lets me know you’re reading!¬†Speaking of which, thank you all SO much for your sweet words by comment, text, email, and phone wishing me a quick recovery. I’m still not feeling 100%, and I can’t wait to feel better so I can get active again. But clearly I can’t be too sick if I’m eating chocolate, right? ūüėČ

If you had to eat one breakfast everyday for the next month, what would it be? 
When you’re sick with a cold and sore throat, do you workout or completely rest?

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Happy Sunday, loves! I hope this finds you enjoying a wonderful weekend. After¬†a quiet weekend at home with my sweet husband (same as Velvet Husband . . . I assure you, there’s only one!), I’m making a comeback thanks to sleep, lots of water and hot tea, vitamins, purple monster smoothies with vega powder, requisite hubby attention, leisure reading, dark chocolate, and Get Well Soon Oats. Oh, and these babies.¬†

This ah-mazing recipe for quinoa stuffed bell peppers¬†comes to us courtesy of the lovely¬†Mama Pea. Oh. my. yum.¬†Be¬†sure to check out Mama’s Pea’s blog, Peas and Thank You,¬†if you’re in the mood for incredible vegan recipes that taste decidedly un-vegan. I seriously can’t say enough great things about her blog — she’s amazing!

I was excited to see that Mama Pea recommended topping the peppers with guacamole because Velvet Husband is fan numero uno¬†of guacamole proper. I say guacamole proper because we here at the Red Velvet Household are rather picky¬†particular about our guacamole. I’m happy to report that this combination passes the Texan test and tastes delicious on almost¬†anything . . . of the savory variety of course. I wouldn’t pair it with peanut butter or bananas, but that’s up to y’all. ūüėČ

Texpat Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados, mashed
  • 1 organic Tomato, diced
  • hot sauce (I love¬†Grandma Tutu’s Hot Sauce, but just¬†use your favorite!)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • Juice from 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions

In a bowl, mash ingredients together with a fork. Garnish with extra cilantro. Insert chip. Eat and repeat. This makes a nice topping for pan-seared halibut and pan-seared salmon, too. As far as I’m concerned, the sky’s the limit when it comes to guacamole. Enjoy! Makes enough for 2-3 hungry Tex-Mex foodies.

Also, I have some big news to share about where Velvet Husband and I are moving next month! Stay tuned, sweet friends! I’d say family, too, but they already know. ūüėČ

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You might recall that I went through a breakfast pizza phase last week, but this week I’m back to my old favorite. Let’s talk about this¬†hopeless devoation of ours mine. Though I would argue things look rather hopeful, don’t you think?

Sometimes when I try to explain to friends and family that peanut butter, dark chocolate, and oats create a delicious and nutritious breakfast, they look at me like I’m speaking in binary code. As if I’m having a blonde moment.¬†Opposite ends of the spectrum, you say? I beg to differ, but that’s neither here nor there.¬†However, if we’re subscribing to “conventional wisdom” (pah!) concerning aforementioned so-called blonde moment (again, pah!), this just goes to show how varied are the reactions I get. It’s like people think I’m eating dessert for breakfast or something.

*Cough!* Okay, so maybe I am. But you know what? I’m cool with that. Consider this my z-snap in a bowl. It’s my [chocolatey] way of getting back at fad diets and others who send the message that people — especially women — should diet, restrict, and deprive in pursuit of some elusive betterment. For those keeping score, it’s¬†Kristen: 10 and Fad diets: -10. ūüėČ

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.

Julia Child

He showed the words ‚Äúchocolate cake‚ÄĚ to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. ‚ÄúGuilt‚ÄĚ was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: ‚Äúcelebration.‚ÄĚ

Michael Pollan

Whipped Banana Dark Chocolate Oats

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Old-Fashioned Oats (I prefer Gluten Free for the consistency)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 banana, sliced into chunks
  • 1 tsp Pure Dutch Cacao Powder
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 Dark Chocolate square (I alternate between TCHO dark chocolate squares, Ghiradelli, and Lindt 85% Cacao, but you can use anything with high cacao content.)

Toppings

  • 1 Dark Chocolate square
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter or 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp coconut flakes
  • Organic blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries (or all of the above if you prefer “Kitchen Sink” oatmeal. For the Russofiles in the house,¬†this might remind you of the¬†Kitchen Sink Dessert at the Starlite Diner in Moscow.)

Directions

Bring water to boil in a deep saucepan. When water reaches a rolling boil, add oats and stir, gradually lowering heat while oats cook. Add banana slices and stir in with oats. Continue whipping bananas as oats cook at a low setting. Several minutes later, add chia seeds. When oats are nearly cooked, add cacao powder and dark chocolate square; stir until well-incorporated. Serve in bowl and add toppings of your choice.

Note to milk-lovers: I prefer my oats sans milk, but feel free to add milk of your choice to your oats when they are nearly cooked, a la KERF whipped banana oats. My husband prefers his oats with milk (more like Kath’s), so I always prepare our batches in separate saucepans.

What is your favorite breakfast? Do you like to change it up, or do you eat the same breakfast everyday? 

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Happy Monday, sweet things! That’s what I call Velvet Husband — Sweet Thang. Makes him feel like we’re throwing back cold ones in Austin. Although, I should point out that I don’t like cold ones . . . er, beer. While we I divulge personal information, I’ll throw out a random tidbit: I have never¬†had an entire beer. Call me crazy, but I just don’t like it. Margarita on the rocks with salt for me, por favor.

Velvet Husband,¬†who does occasionally imbibe a cold one, returned to me on Friday — thank goodness! We enjoyed each other’s company on a lovely date night at¬†Troya, a Turkish restaurant in the Inner Richmond.¬†We adored our last Troya experience,¬†but this time it didn’t live up to expectations. The warm olives and Mediterranean Haydri, Hummus, and Muhamara were delicious, but we had to return our cold pita bread for more freshly baked fare. In addition to painfully slow service and cold pita, Velvet Husband’s manti and my lamb shish kebab entrees were mediocre at best.

Ah, but there’s a silver lining. Troya inspired my 37-point use of¬†Mezes¬†in a heated Words With Friends matchup with Hubby. Nerd alert! Speaking of which, I have about six games on the backburner. Hence, the following message to all potential Words With Friends opponents:¬†I¬†WILL decline invitations without hesitation.¬†Besos, Kristen.

Resolved to make a knock-your-socks off Sunday supper after our Turkish delight disappointment, to whom did I turn for dinnsperation? Angela from¬†Oh She Glows, a favorite resource full of deliciously and de-healthy recipes. You’ll notice that my pasta has a more vibrant hue than Angela’s — I used two large tomatoes, six garlic cloves, and double the amount of tomato paste to create a wonderfully rich sauce. Instead of kamut, I used organic whole grain spaghetti.¬†For our side dish, I made delicious¬†kale chips a la KERF.

What a creamy dinner created with my¬†dreamy co-chef!¬†That’s right, his Royal Handsomeness helped me in the kitchen. Now, before you make any assumptions, we don’t believe in forced labor here at The Red Velvet¬†household; forced grins notwithstanding.¬†Check out these noodles I’m watching . . . closely. By the way, why don’t I get an apron? These fly threads deserve protection, too.¬†

Tomato Basil Cashew Cream Pasta 

Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

  • 2 servings uncooked spaghetti (I used organic whole wheat spaghetti)
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp organic tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped (No such thing as too much garlic, in my opinion!)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Handful of fresh Basil, chopped
Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

In a blender, add tomato, cashews, water, and tomato. Blend until smooth.

Meanwhile, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions.

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil on low heat. Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes, careful not to burn it.

Pour sauce from the blender into the saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring. Add the salt to sauce and cook for about 5 minutes, watching closely and stirring intermittently.

Remove sauce from heat and stir in basil and pepper. When the pasta is done cooking, rinse, drain, and return it to the large pot. Add sauce to pasta. Stir and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Kale Chips

from Kath Eats Real Food

Ingredients:

  • organic kale (I used lacinto or “dinosaur” kale, but apparently curly Scots kale works even better.)
  • kosher salt
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and dry kale either in a salad spinner or with paper towels. Note: Be sure kale is dry so that it doesn’t steam. De-stem and tear leaves off stem into bite-size pieces. Lay kale pieces on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle kale chips with desired amount of olive oil and toss. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees until crisp. Click here for Kath’s kale chip tutorial.

Also, be sure to stop by Carrots ‘N’ Cake today to bid on delicious goodies for a great cause. My¬†Russian Tea Cakes¬†could be yours!

Do you play Words With Fiends Friends?

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The Jakarta Post? The Moscow Times? Really? Really? My apologies for the mounds of¬†cheese you might detect at The Red Velvet Life lately. You see, Velvet Husband has been away, so I have no one to advise against these poor judgment calls that make me–only me–giggle. Instead, I post with reckless abandon. Indeed, reckless disregard of a known risk of perceived¬†lameness. Oh, well. My blog! My cheese! ¬†

Moving along. Feeling hungry generous, I set out to make sweet treats for my classmates on this last Russian class of the semester last night. Hmm, what to make? Of course it had to be healthy . . .

And it had to be authentic and unique to Russia. Duh.


Okay, comrades, err . . . friends. You’re onto me. I didn’t pick a dessert uniquely endemic to the Urals. No. Even so, this Russian Tea Cake/Mexican Wedding Cake/Italian Butternut/Southern Pecan Ball/Viennese Sugar Ball/Snowball/Snowdrop was a smashingly sugary success. Something about the pressure of public speaking in class made my classmates go for the gold. And when I say gold, I mean butter, because by the end of our presentations, dialogues, and self-aggrandizing spiels, my snowballs melted into many an anxious belly. Poof! Gone.¬†

If you’re in the market for a crowd-pleaser, I recommend this recipe for Russian Tea Cakes/Mexican Wedding Cakes/blah blah blah cakes. The following simple recipe, certainly not my own, is slightly modified from here.

Russian Tea Cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup soft unsalted butter (slightly softer than room temperature, but not melted)

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 Tbsp powdered confectioner’s sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp powdered confectioner’s sugar for decoration

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine butter and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine 6 Tbsp powdered sugar, flour, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and combine well until blended. You might need to use a whisk and spoon to adequately incorporate all ingredients. Add walnuts. Form dough into one-inch balls and arrange on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Note: Dough will be flaky; do not roll into balls or you’ll end up with crumbles. Rather, think of forming/packing the dough into balls. I used an ice cream scoop to help me pack and shape. Once arranged on cookie sheet, bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and cool. Once cool, roll balls in powdered sugar to create glorious snowballs. Note: I rolled them once when warm and once when cool to achieve extra snowy effect.

Behold, the long-awaited San Francisco snowin May, no less!

Masha, my friend from class and accomplished photographer, brought these pretty –Ņ–ł—Ä–ĺ–∂–ļ–ł (Pirozhki; pronounced Pirosh-KEE) from San Francisco’s own Moscow Bakery & Tibilisi Store. Pirozhki are petite pies that contain a variety of sweet and savory fillings all the way from apple, cherry, and lemon to meat, potato, and mushroom. I enjoyed a delicious potato-filled Pirozhok for dinner. Naturally, the lovely taste of potato pirozhok filled me with nostalgia for –ú–ĺ—Ā–ļ–≤–į. Fortunately for my classmates, said nostalgia was confined to mmms and yumms — in Russian, of course. Russian cuisine may not be the healthiest, but it’s arguably the heartiest.

This wasn’t supposed to be United Nations Week at The Red Velvet Life (few months early for that), but it’s been fun. If you’re wondering, I haven’t been posting my meals so as not to bore you with the¬†smoothie/oatmeal/snack/random dinner/smoothie/oatmeal/snack/random dinner cycle.¬†I’m just posting as I see fit, but I’d love to know what you think.

If you haven’t already, be sure to enter the cupcake apron giveaway, my inaugural giveaway that ends today at 6pm PST. Last chance to be the cutest baker on the block! As always, thank you so much for reading, beauties!

Have you ever made a variation of these snowballs before? What did you call them?

For any Russians out there, what’s your favorite Russian food?

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