Jan 7, 2012

best soup ever! and healthy too...

These are the smells that have been filling my kitchen of late...

Lemon. Garlic. Freshly toasted and ground cumin. Spicy harissa.

Photo by Tara Donne for the Wall Street Journal
Those are the basic ingredients that make lablabi the delicious concoction that it is. What is lablabi? A simple chickpea soup/stew commonly served by street vendors in Tunisia. You ladle the chickpeas and spicy broth over torn pieces of hearty bread, then add toppings to your liking...

Capers. Sun-dried tomatoes. Chopped parsley. Diced preserved lemon. (And more harissa and cumin if you like a lot of spice in your food.) A splash of olive oil.

It's one of the most addictive things I've ever eaten. And super easy to make.

And good for you!

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Nutrition research -- like the many studies cited in Colin Campbell's book, The China Study -- has demonstrated that a high-fiber, low-fat vegan diet can prevent a broad range of health problems we in the West have come to think of as inevitable. Obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke, osteoporosis, dementia, and many other problems can be attributed in large part to diets of animal-based and highly processed foods.

As a lover of cheese, eggs, ice cream, and other dairy products, this was a hard truth for me to swallow. But making the switch has paid off for me. This week marks 25 lbs. I've lost following a whole foods, plant-based diet. I'm looking forward to dropping another 25 in the new year, and to overall healthier prospects as I look to the longer-term future.

Cook up some lablabi in your kitchen, and you'll see (and smell and taste) that healthy food need not feel like a sacrifice!

The recipe I've been following is the one in this Wall Street Journal article. Leave out the optional eggs; it's fabulous (and healthier) without them. And double it! You'll inevitably want more.

The lablabi can be a meal in itself, but if you want to flesh out the menu add a simple green salad or a selection of Moroccan side salads such as sliced fennel with orange segments or roasted green peppers with preserved lemon.

Yum, yum, yum!

Sep 26, 2011

creative recycling: wedge brewery

One of our favorite spots in Asheville was the Wedge Brewing Company, a no-frills but serious-about-the-beer microbrewery in the heart of the industrial River Arts District.

The indoor tasting room at Wedge is teeny tiny. But informal seating spills out onto a concrete front porch, into an adjacent beer garden, and out into a roped off area of the parking lot, where outdoor movies are projected onto the side of a big white panel van.

But the movies take a backseat to the double feature at Wedge: amazing beer (with unlimited free peanuts!) and fabulous metal art from recycled industrial relics. Railings, outdoor furniture, and the awe-inspiring walls of the funky beer garden were created by the late sculptor John Payne and his apprentices.

If you love hand crafted beer and ever find yourself in Asheville, definitely stop in at Wedge. And if they're serving that delicious "Derailed" Hemp Seed Brown Ale that we kept slurping down, don't pass it up! Yum!

Sep 25, 2011

colorful modern lofts

Spotted these nifty condos just outside the River Arts District in Asheville, NC. I've seen this kind of design on the West Coast, but this is the first thing like this I've encountered here in the East.

Constructed in 2008, the lofts feature health- and environment-friendly materials and methods. For more photos and information, go to the website of Mountain Housing Opportunities, who constructed the lofts.

Sep 24, 2011

2011 Coastal Living Idea House comes to Virginia

If you're in the area and looking for an interesting way to fill yet another rainy day, consider a trip to Norfolk to check out this year's Coastal Living "Idea House". It's open to the public (for a $10 entry fee) through November 27.

I have not been to see it myself. Previewing the pictures online, I can see that the nautical-themed decor is just not contemporary enough for my taste. (It could at best be described as "transitional".) With their handsome subway tiles and craftsman inspired cabinetry, the two kitchens (one for the main house, one for the guest cottage) were the only things that really caught my eye...

However, my friend Mark went to see it, and although his tastes also run toward modern, he nonetheless came away feeling he had picked up some good ideas for his home improvement and decorating projects. So you just might find some good ideas here yourself.

Or take the easy way out like I did, and just check out the pictures online. You can also see photos from Coastal Living's prior idea houses.

The 2010 house, for example, is slightly more contemporary and features soothing color palettes inspired by driftwood, sand, and oyster shells. The Craftsman-esque house also boasts pleasing outdoor spaces such as this one...

Whichever route you take, have fun exploring!

Sep 17, 2011

artful garden in a postindustrial setting

Asheville's River Arts District is now the home to many artists' studios and galleries, but once upon a time this area was nothing but railroad tracks, warehouses, manufacturing buildings, and other industrial structures.

At Curve Studios, fiber artist and gallery owner Pattiy Torno has created a garden that pays tribute to the area's heritage while clearly announcing that this place is now all about art.

In addition to the art of the landscape design itself, the garden showcases ceramic sculptures by Cassie Ryalls as well as Simone Wilson's works from salvaged metal. An abundance of other reclaimed items (such as those railroad ties Pattiy dragged into place all by herself) also sends the message that this is a "green" garden in more than one sense -- and the studios' WaterWall cistern system reinforces that message.

Here are some of the photos I took of this lovely outdoor space. If you want to see more, head over to the garden section of the Curve Studios blog, where you can see pictures and video of the garden throughout the seasons.

Beautiful, yes? Even the gallery cats think so. But truly, photos don't do this place justice. If you're ever in Asheville, stop by the gardens at Curve Studios to revel in the artful juxtaposition of organic natural forms and gritty industrial relics.

And while you're there, be sure to visit Pattiy in her studio (right through those white double doors in the photo below). She's one of the nicest, most interesting people you'll meet, and her space is full of charming fleece throws and other creations -- including a small collection of items by ceramic artist Meagan Chaney whose work already hangs in our living room.

Sep 16, 2011

secrets to successful recycling

Nudges from a few Nesting Blog readers -- along with an inspiring trip to Asheville, NC -- have prompted me to open up the ole laptop and begin blogging again.

I plan to share photos of some of the nifty artists' studios, etc., that we spotted in Asheville. But given the crafty, homespun, earth-friendly design approach embraced by so many in this town, this TED Talk from folksy builder Dan Phillips seemed the perfect place to start.

When I first viewed this video a few months ago, I had one of those "Duh! Why didn't that occur to me?" moments. He shares principles for successfully building with recycled materials that are so simple and self-evident, it's surprising more people aren't building this way. But having poked around Asheville for a week, I can tell you that a lot of its residents have caught on to this way of thinking.

To see more pictures of the homes created by Dan Phillips and his colleagues, go to www.phoenixcommotion.com. Or read the New York Times article profiling Dan and his work.

Mar 22, 2011

Catalog Living

A friend directed me to this fun blog...

Catalog Living, created by actor/writer/comedian Molly Erdman, takes a look at the artfully -- and sometimes oddly -- staged photos in decorating catalogs, and through simple captions tells the story of the fictional characters she imagines living there. The names of these characters? Gary and ... wait for it ... Elaine.

If you've ever rolled your eyes at that plate of figs carefully placed under the table, or the rowboat completely full of throw pillows, you'll enjoy Catalog Living.