Protein-Packed Costco Meal in 10 Minutes or Less!

19 Aug

Costco- truly the land of plenty. I try to stick to one simple rule when shopping there: if we don’t already consume it in the Kef household, we don’t need to give it a whirl in bulk proportions. Seems reasonable right? Well- I broke that rule big time yesterday with the help of MarymountKef and am now the proud owner of three new pairs of running gloves (which should come in handy tonight during my 86F run), 400 thread-count sheets, and a lot of apple cinnamon chips. But the fun didn’t end there–I also bought new bean-based noodles and frozen quinoa. Why is that crazy? Well, I don’t really eat beans or quinoa, and I usually am not that into things with noodles or frozen food that isn’t ice cream. So basically, I looked at a HUGE amount of a new item and said, “Meh, I’m not really into any of the components of this, but I’ll see how I feel about 11 servings of it without so much as tasting it.” Twice. Luckily, the gamble paid off and I now have two new products worth sharing!

The first– black bean spaghetti.

mainimage__52508_1405393272_1280_1280I have no real reason for not eating beans often, but they’re not paleo and I feel way bloated after eating them, so I’ve been avoiding them. But when I saw that, unlike most gluten-free noodles, these guys have no weird stuff in them– 92% beans, 8% water–  it seemed like a thing to try.

The second–frozen quinoa and kale.


Note: not my nicely-manicured thumb nail.

Again–quinoa is not totally my thing for no particular reason (unless you count the destruction of Peru’s agricultural system particular), but I figured this is would be a great alternative to rice for BFKef, who can’t stand the idea of a meal without a grain. The Costco package comes with four steamable bags with 3-4 servings in each, so I am hoping BFKef will microwave one of these guys on Sundays and use it for his lunch all week. A girl can dream.

So what did I do with these the massive amount of things I don’t eat all that often? Well, I put them all together to make one huge meal, of course. And it was delicious.


On the blog today: billions of things I don’t eat with a side of condos for sale.

This meal was laughably easy– I threw the noodles in boiling water, microwaved the quinoa/kale, and then threw in some edamame (because there wasn’t nearly enough protein already between the beans and the quinoa) to the already-boiling noodle water in the last minute or so of cooking. I added sriracha to BFKef’s and sesame oil/tamari to mine and called it a meal.

I was impressed by the texture of the noodles –they really had a spaghetti-like consistency. The quinoa and kale was YUMMY and perfectly spiced. BFKef liked it as well–the true test will be whether he makes it for himself or not.  If I ever have to buy a year’s worth of stuff I don’t eat again, I’ll start here.



Malaysia Monday: 6 Days in Kota Kinabalu, Part I

18 Aug

Here we are at the start of another week, which means more Malaysia! Last week we recapped our time in George Town (Penang), where the buses are awesome, the street art is cool, and the food is amazing. This week, we’re moving on to the island of Borneo, state of Sabah, and city of Kota Kinabalu (KK). For the Carmen Sandiegos out there, here’s our flight path from Pennisular Malayasia to Malaysian Borneo:

flight map

Arrival: The flight from Penang to KK was easy; the disembarking process, however, was anything but. Prior to the moment the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign was turned off, I had always believed that two pieces of matter could not occupy the same space. Clearly, my fellow AirAsia passengers did not buy into commonly-held theories of physics, and the second that little “ding” went off people were running up and down the aisle as if it were the autobahn. I did not have one iota of cultural consideration for this little difference in disembarking process and thought if I just stood firm I could instill into people the age-old School Bus principle– moving vehicles are emptied in exactly ONE fashion: by alternating door side, driver side in rows until everyone is out. No one was impressed by this, and finally one small grandfather who was trying to be the THIRD person standing across the aisle implored to me to move with an annoyed, “Please, hello!” This would become the catch phrase of the rest of the trip.

Night 1: The difference between George Town and KK is similiar to the difference between Portland and Seattle– in this case, George Town is the funky, artsy little town whose quirk and character is apparent on every block, while KK is the more urban, business-heavy city that lacks distinct charm but has a ton of cool, outdoor stuff to do very close by.

 We kept hearing about the Hawker Food–street food in a central, usually-outdoor food court–of KK, so we settled in at the modest-but-totally adequate Eden 54 and ran off to a waterfront hawker outpost. JetSet went crazy and ordered grilled stingray (which I had reservations about but turned out to be a great treat), we had some grilled squid, and even an avocado milkshake, all for about $25… yes, for the two of us.


Stingray so hot it steamed up the camera lens



Grilled squid

IMG_1397It may look like JetSet and I are enjoying one avocado milkshake with two straws… but actually we are both holding ourselves up on the table to keep our feet clear of the rat who was trying to dine with us. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Day 1: Cooking Class and Sapi Island 

We spent most of the first day in KK with a local gourmand, Remie Law, who gave us a tour of an amazing food market and taught us how to cook local produce. We had SUCH a good time with him (so much so that I’ll devote an entire post to our day with him on a future Monday) and learned a lot in our time. We started off the day at a huge food market, where I took approximately 6,000 pictures of food. Just a few:


Sorry, pig lovers


JetSet learning to moonlight in the local 60+ band




After the market, we went back to Remie’s suburban home (complete with awesome organic garden), where we proceeded to fry the ever-living Jesus out of some very worthy produce. We even took a selfie. More on this later.


After our day with Remie, we decided that Ferragosto so far had been heavy on the trekking and far too light on the tanning, so we headed out to Sapi Island, part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. A 20 minute boat ride from KK’s Jesselton Point wharf, these islands were described to us as “just okay.” Exhibit A:



Not too shabby. We enjoyed the sunlight that was left (warning: you will have to move a lot as the sun sets to catch every afternoon ray–better to go in the morning!) and headed back for an Afternoon Caffeinated Beverage at (where else?) the Dunkin’ on the wharf.


For dinner we checked out El Centro, which people who have ever visited the developing world will recognize by the name “Whitey Central.” Despite the advertisements for organized bar crawls and small groups of backpackers, it’s a nice place–good vibe, strong drinks, and not a rat in sight. We had nice salads and a delicious bowl of fruit topped off with champagne cocktails. It was also the sight of a very rare occurence: below, JetSet googles something (concentrating VERY deeply) that proved he was right and I was wrong. It doesn’t happen often, but let the record show it did happen once… though I can’t remember what it was about. IMG_1516

Day 2: 

We spent the whole day on Mamutik Island, which was just as beautiful as Sapi. We ate lunch at a restaurant there and watched as people pranced around the beach with Selfie Sticks. Not familiar? Neither was I, prior to this trip. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you— THE SELFIE STICK:


We were pretty much the only people who weren’t walking around with our phone/camera attached to one of these bad boys. We were also the only people who didn’t make peace signs in every shot. Oh–and also pretty much the only people on the beach who weren’t spending our precious time in the sun using a selfie stick to take shot after shot of ourself MAKING said peace sign. We must be old.

Anyway- that night we ate at Kohinoor, another Indian restaurant that was absolutely insanely delicious. They even had fish tikka, which I had often thought should be a dish but didn’t know existed.IMG_1526

After dinner we took a little stroll along the water front, and somehow we landed in a chain resto-pub along the lines of Applebees for a beverage. Luckily we did, because we ALSO stumbled upon an awesome power ballad cover band. The room was pretty empty but we were really enjoying ourselves and sang/danced along to all the songs. They asked for requests, so of course we drafted up this note:

IMG_0360.JPGAnd proceeded to make absolutely FOOLS of ourselves when they played our requests. And yes, we were in a bar called Cock & Bull. It’s true.

Day 3: North Borneo Railway

Every Wednesday and Saturday, one of the resorts in KK runs a restored steam engine to Papar Town. They’ve made SUCH an event of it–everything in the train has been restored to “bygone era” status, and you do feel like you’ve traveled back in time a bit. Breakfast and lunch are served on the train, and there are stops along the way at a temple, a small town, and a large market. When the Kefs were kiddies, our grandparents took us to all kind of train-related things, and so JetSet and I have major nostalgia for the locomotive. Pictures do it better justice than description, but I will say this was one of my very favorite bits of the whole trip. Also, this is pretty much the only time I’ve been on vacation and thought, “Wow, I wish I had kids with me.” All the kids on the train were so cute and having so much fun!


Not sure if they did the whole peace-sign thing in the 1950s, but we’ll go with the anachronism.






Of course, we had to make a spectacle of ourselvesIMG_1537



IMG_1542 IMG_1550

IMG_1551 IMG_1559











IMG_1594Needless to say, United Airlines could learn a thing or two.

After working on the railroad we wanted to continue our life of leisure out on an island, but as it was already mid-afternoon, it didn’t make sense to take a boat out, chase the sun as it set, and take a boat back… so instead, we just set ourselves up for some sun on the wharf. We thought it would be a major “what the hell are those two doing?” moment, and were both a bit disappointed to find out that no one paid us one bit of attention. Shame.

Come back next week to find our how I almost died on Mt Kinabalu, our bike trip through the jungle, and the time JetSet ate 57 pork products in one sitting.


Date Night Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

14 Aug

BFKef and I love a date night–sometimes we’re fancy and try one of the 15,524 new restaurants on 14th street, other times we go to an event around DC, and every now and again we get really wild and see a movie (usually when there’s a new Marvel movie out). All that is fun, but my favorites are the date nights we have at home–on those nights, I make a nicer-than-usual dinner, pop open a bottle of wine, and try to make a little tablescape out of the ottoman that doubles as our table. Last night, it looked like this:

20140811_203608Not the best picture, but you get the point.

So what differentiates a Date Night from another night out with your beloved? Here’s what it is for me:

1- I wear clothes that don’t lead others to believe I’m a camp counselor. In addition to dressing up, I even wear make up, which makes BFKef even happier than finding out that yoga pants are not, in fact, the outermost layer of my dermis. I get a kick out of dressing up “for” BFKef– reminds me of the days when we first started dating when AKAKef and I would go through every outfit (and I use that phrase loosely) in my closet before I met up with him for a date, and reminds BFKEf that I still got it :) .

2- I drink alcohol. Between working 12-hour shifts that start at 7am and training through DC’s hot summer, I usually get up between 5 and 6 am–not really a lot of wiggle room for an alcohol-induced snooze button. BFKef loves an adult beverage and it makes him happy when I imbibe too, so I make a point of getting drinks with dinner to prove it’s an official Date Night. This usually elicits a manly “woooo!” from BFKef.

3- I don’t invite other people…unless they’re on designated Date Night, too. Need I say more? It’s not fun getting all dolled up if the people you invite show up in sweats.

This week’s date night was at home, and I made a delicious and blessedly easy chicken and brussels sprout dish. BFKef gave it rave reviews and was pleased as punch–date night always seems to go better when I give that man some meat! #NoMoreVegDateNights

Do you do date night? What do you do? Have special “rules” to differentiate date night from other nights?


Easy Date Night Chicken and Brussels Sprouts



  • 2 chicken thighs (I used boneless and skinless)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • cumin, to taste
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved.



1. Preheat oven to 350F. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium pan. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. I used mostly pepper and very little cumin.

2. Place chicken thighs in pan and sear for 5-10 min, until very crispy.

3. Flip chicken. Transfer pan to oven. Bake for 15 min.

4. Toss brussels sprouts with salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste. Add to pan (REMEMBER THAT PAN WILL BE VERY HOT) and return to oven. Bake for another 15 minutes. Chicken will be very crispy and smell delicious!


4 Ingredient Coconut Lemon Popsicles

13 Aug

I came across my popsicle makers yesterday, shoved up in the top cabinet where I keep all my seasonal stuff. My first thought was, “OH I’ll have to make some popsicles this summer,” immediately after which I realized that this summer is already, in fact, more than half over. Y’all KNOW how I feel about August (one long month of Sundays)–so I had to shake off the “summer’s almost gone” blues and whip up some pops–stat.. I saw this recipe for coconut lemon pops, and decided I’d take a turn at taking out the refined sugar and adding another fruit. Et voila! Just about the easiest, most refreshing treat you could ever want, all before the end of another summer’s day.



Coconut Lemon Popsicles


  • juice of 2 lemons (I got a bit more than 1/3 c using a hand juicer)
  • 1 c full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4-1/3 c frozen blueberries
  • maple syrup, to taste (I used about 3 TBS and mine came out very tangy)


1. Assemble all ingredients. Stir vigorously in a bowl.

2. Pour into popsicle molds. Add sticks. Cover and freeze for at least 3 hours. To remove, run warm water over the outside of the frozen molds and loosen gently.

SoulCycle DC Review

12 Aug

The wait is over–SoulCycle has finally opened its first studio in DC!

Screen shot 2014-08-12 at 10.08.43 AM

I first experienced SoulCycle (or simply “Soul,” as devotees call it) a few years ago when I was in NY and in need of a bike + run workout before my first triathlon. QueijoKef preaches the gospel according to Soul and convinced me that I should give it a whirl. If you’ve never been to a SoulCycle class, it’s basically spinning on crack spiked with a dose of positive self talk.Where most spinning studios rely on black lights and strobes, Soul keeps the room dark and lit only by candles. There’s no drill sergeant shouting to keep you moving–most of the instructors employ a low, “look-inside-yourself” voice. And just when you think 45-minutes of riding in place can’t be innovated, they throw in some micro-movement weight training, and your whole damn body burns (don’t get cocky and take the 5 lb weights–the 2 or 3 lbs will do you dirty enough. Seriously.) Add amazing music and the fact that I sat next to Tom Colicchio during my first class and I was hooked!

So I was pretty stoked when I heard Soul was coming to DC. I headed over there this morning for Megan’s 8 AM class. Like most Soul locations, there’s a coed locker room plus gender-specific bathrooms and showers (but I think there are only 4 showers–so give yourself enough time to wait on line). The studio itself is huge, with 50 or so bikes. I arrived early for once in my life, got some help adjusting my bike and got ready to go. I picked Megan’s class on purpose–I’m a sucker for people who list their grandparents as their inspiration–and she did not disappoint. She’s fun, snuck in enough choreography to keep it interesting (but not so much that it was distracting…I hate that) and really pushed us all to go farther than we thought. Sometimes the motivational parts of Soul can seem a little hokey–people are paying almost $1/minute to sweat in $80 LuluLemon shorts…”you yourself are enough” messages feel a little tone deaf– but Megan was a totally authentic and positive instructor. When she told me I could make today better than yesterday, I believed her.

Since it has been a minute since I’ve found myself on a Soul bike, I had forgotten how utterly uncoordinated I am–if Soul is “dancing on a bike,” as they like to describe themselves, then I am doing the Elaine dance. That aside, I had a great class.

Bottom line: Soul is a really fun way to shake off a bad day, kick start an exciting week, or re-energize a workout routine. I ride 2-3 times a week, so the hefty $30-per-class price tag is prohibitive for me, but it’s a great experience worth a try and I look forward to dropping in every now and again.

Welcome to DC, SOUL!

Tips for a Yummy Salad and a Basil Sort-of Salad Dressing Recipe

12 Aug


Anyone know why restaurant salads always come out better than made-at-home salads? I really wish I were a bring-salad-to-work kind of gal, but whenever I do that I find myself wishing I had just sucked up the eight bucks and gone to Sweetgreen. Come to think of it–pretty much no matter what I bring for lunch, I am still wishing I had Sweetgreen. Some things can’t be helped, I guess.

Yesterday I had all the fixings for salads and figured I might as well give it a go. Mary over at Minutes Per Mile makes an amazing Sweetgreen-caliber salad pretty much every day and after a few minutes drooling over some of her best work I decided it was the day I’d make my own damn delicious salad.

I am so pleased to report that it was a successful mission! I am going to chalk up yesterday’s victory to two new methods: 1) I cut the kale with kitchen scissors instead of shredding it with my hands–maybe kale is more delicate than originally thought and cutting it helps maintain crispness? I’m gonna go with that. 2) I didn’t make a dressing, per se–instead, I made a sort-of pesto that had a tabbouleh consistency. I really preferred this to other, wetter dressings. Who knew?

So today our recipe is for the basil sort-of salad dressing, pictured above in the bottom right corner. If you prefer to pour your salad dressing rather than scoop it, just add more oil. The salad above is a bed of kale, shredded carrots, 1/2 a sliced avocado, 1/2 sliced tomato, and sauteed brussels sprouts.

Basil Sort-of Salad Dressing


  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced into food-processor-friendly chunks
  • oil, to taste– I used about 1/8 c, which gave me tabbouleh-like texture. Use more for more liquidy dressing.
  • 1/4 c hard cheese (I used mizithra–parmesan would work, too)
  • maple syrup, to taste (1/2 tsp was all I needed to cut the lemon’s tangyness just enough)


1. Combine ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired texture.

Malaysia Mondays: 3-4 Days in Penang

11 Aug

During our recent trip to Malaysia, my brother I spent 2 days in Singapore, 3.5 days in Penang, and 6 days in Kota Kinabalu. There weren’t a ton of detailed itineraries out there (especially for KK!), so I figured I’d give the play-by-play of our time there for future internet searchers to stumble upon. Today we’re talking about Penang– specifically, George Town– which appears to be the Malaysian center of cool, quirky, and coordinated bus systems.


Arrival: We got into Penang from Singapore via an easy AirAsia flight. Can’t recall where Singapore is located in relationship to Malaysia?  We have a handy dandy map below. Wondering what we did in Singapore? We’ll get to that at some point.

flight map 2

The taxi ride from the airport to George Town was 20-30 minutes, and we arrived about 730 pm or so.  It was already getting dark and we hadn’t yet fully adjusted to the time change, so our first night in Penang was pretty much just dinner. We checked into the amazing Coffee Atelier and then walked over to Woodlands Vegetarian Indian restaurant in little India (which was delish).  I can’t recommend Coffee Atelier enough– it was clean, staff members were gracious hosts, the included breakfast (eggs, fruit & coffee) was yummy, it’s in a great location, and it is STUNNING. Here’s what our room looked like:

Suite 47 A - living room

Day 1: We spent the morning just walking around George Town–this is a treat in and of itself. There is tons of interesting street art, several quirky shops, street-side temples, and mosques. Definitely take a stop by the Penang Heritage Trust info center near Labuh King and get the color-coded map of George Town. We walked around from about 8-1230 or so and seemed to hit just about all of the highlights. Tourism Penang is another good resource and has lots of lists of street art and street food and festival schedules so you can be sure not to miss anything.







We also swung by Fort Cornwallis for a little Revolutionary Flair:


And gave ourselves a short tour of one of the Jetties, where folks live in stilt settlements:




Afterward, we took the 204 bus to Penang Hill. The bus is clean, efficient, and super cheap–don’t get suckered into taking a taxi. Once you get there, the way to the top is STEEP and LONG–don’t get suckered into walking up; take the funicular.

IMG_1197Penang Hill is most definitely worth the trip–great views, a fun play ground for kids, a temple, an owl museum (yes, really), and a mosque await you at the top. There’s also a food court with several noodle, rice, and meat options– we had a very acceptable noodle dish, plus our first encounter with fruit ice, which is a dessert of shaved ice, fruit, and tapioca pearls (plus some other extras if sugar is your thing)–highly, HIGHLY recommended.


IMG_1199While we’re talking about getting suckered, if you have read the Penang Hill entry in the Lonely Planet guide you will have read about the “hard road” and the “easy paved path.” Turns out, BOTH are paved–don’t get suckered into walking down the ABSURDLY hard road that is a 40% incline for 3 miles. Instead, take the nice path to the left of the Buddhist temple at the top.


Pro tip: if you’re an idiot like we were and try to walk down to the Botanical Gardens the hard way, you can take a trolley through the gardens for RM4 that will drop you off near a taxi stand. They can drive you to George Town for RM25 or to back to the funicular station for RM 30 or 40. But I really don’t suggest it. The Botanical Gardens were nice but not particularly impressive–certainly not worth the walk down that hill.

After our trek, werewarded ourselves with a trip to Teksen. We ordered so many dishes that they had to move us to a bigger table–do yourself a favor and order one of everything. Definitely in the top 3 meals we had in Malaysia.


Day 2: Monkey Beach

After a perfectly lovely morning run along the water, we headed out to Taman Negara Pulau National Park (this time via the 101 bus).


There are a few options for hiking in the park–we opted for the Monkey Beach trek, which is about 3 miles each way.  It’s very well marked and was a really beautiful trek all the way through:






Why do they call it Monkey Beach? You guessed it…


There are some places outside the park to get food that you can bring it, but there’s also a restaurant at the beach that serves up some yummy grilled foods–we went for fish and corn.

IMG_1278 IMG_1279

Pro tip: If you don’t feel like trekking back, you can pay for a boat ride back to the park. Way better pro tip: outside the park are some food stands where you can get this awesome portable coconut water!


After our second consecutive day of trekking, we enjoyed some beverages at the very fancy Seven Terraces. My drink was nutmeg juice, lime, grenadine, gin, and soda–yum!


Day Three: We were so sad to leave the Coffee Atelier, but time waits for no one and neither does Ferragosto. Before we left George Town for Kota Kinabalu, we checked out the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion. It’s worth it to get there for one of the two daily tours–we had a very knowledgeable and funny tour guide who gave us some great feng shui tips in addition to history about the house.


IMG_1350After the mansion tour, we strolled through the part of Little India we hadn’t seen during the daylight and sampled some street food:IMG_1387 IMG_1390 IMG_1386We had been meaning to eat a proper Nyonya meal and, as luck would have it, we stumbled upon Aunti Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery. It was beyond awesome.  Please find yourself there.


After lunch, we went for an Afternoon Caffeinated Beverage at Huang Chen Hao Tea House.  A nice older gentleman gave us a lesson on tea, and a demonstration of the proper brewing method, then left us to our own devices as we practiced making tea the “right” way.



And with that, we headed out to KK. We loved George Town and felt like 3.5 days was exactly the right amount of time–we didn’t feel rushed and we didn’t feel like we missed anything. If we had been able to stay up past 10, we would have loved to see some of the night life…but we had to get home and fall asleep watching tv like the 80 year olds we are. Tune in next week for 6 days in Kota Kinabalu–bike rides through the jungle, island hopping, and all the fried freshness you could ever want!



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